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Omar Yussef is a Palestinian schoolteacher of advancing years and something of an amateur detective, aiding his old friend, Khamis Zeydan, a former PLO hit man turned Bethlehem chief of police. This installment in the series finds them in Nablus, for the wedding of Lieutenant Sami Jaffari, a protege of Zeydan on the National Police force.

On arriving in town, Omar and Sami go to visit the leader of the Samaritans, whose most sacred document has been stolen. While there it is discovered that his son has just been killed at one of the ancient religious group's holiest sites--the location where they believe Abraham was to sacrifice Isaac. In the course of their investigation they discover that the son was secretly homosexual, had files containing dirt on all the leading figures in the PLO and was the only one who knew where $300 million in aid money had been secreted. The suspects are, accordingly, numerous. Meanwhile, the investigation is further complicated by a war that breaks out between Hamas and the PLO, when the former use autopsy results from the files that suggest Arafat died of AIDs, and by a threat from the World Bank to cut off all further aid monies if the $300 million isn't found post haste.

Mr. Rees, formerly a reporter, uses his tale to describe what he likes about Palestine and admires about its people, but also as a platform from which to criticize the pathologies that afflict them. The book is as informative as it is entertaining.


Grade: (A-)


Matthew Rees Links:

    -AUTHOR SITE: Matt Beynon Rees
    -WIKIPEDIA: Matt Beynon Rees
    -BOOK SITE: Matt Beynon Rees (Soho Crime)
    -EXCERPT: from The Collaborator of Bethlehem
    -GOOGLE BOOK: The Samaratin's Secret
    -ESSAY: The Fiction-Writer's Gaza: Recording moments of humanity, not violence. (Matt Beynon Rees, 01.09.09, Forbes)
    -ESSAY: Fiction Can Be More Real Than Journalism: ‘In journalism, the color gray too often comes out a muddy brown.’ (Matt Beynon Rees , Nieman Reports)
    -ESSAY: Fighting Over Temple Mount Recalls Second Intifada (Matt Beynon Rees, 10/09/09, Huffington Post)
    -ESSAY: A four-state solution for Israel?: Palestinians are divided; Israelis too. Not a good basis for negotiation. (Matt Beynon Rees, 12/10/09, GlobalPost)
    -ESSAY: Why Israelis pick Tarantino over Spielberg: Latent shame over the Jews' failure to stand up to the Nazis is cited as a reason for the success of "Inglourious Basterds." (Matt Beynon Rees, November 23, 2009, GlobalPost)
    -ESSAY: Baksheeshed to the Bone (Matt Beynon Rees, April 2009, Checkpoint Jerusalem)
    -ARCHIVES: Matt Beynon Rees (Daily Beast)
    -ESSAY: Right Place, Wrong Pope: As Pope Benedict XVI touches down in Israel with a much-needed reconciliation agenda, earlier actions in his papacy all but ensure a visit that divides more than it heals. (Matt Beynon Rees, 5/11/09, Daily Beast)
    -ESSAY: What Israel Learned From Arafat: Tomorrow's Netanyahu-Obama summit has Iran, Gaza, and settlments on the agenda, but the Israeli leader will bring a new tactic learned from an old nemesis. Matt Rees explains "the Arafat." (Matt Beynon Rees, 5/17/09, Daily Beast)
    -ESSAY: Mother and Son, Wars and Recipes: War correspondent Matt McAllester fled into the fields of battle to escape an alcoholic, mentally ill mother. In his memoir, Bittersweet, he tries to make amends with her, in the kitchen. (Matt Beynon Rees, 5/22/09, Daily Beast)
    -ESSAY: Israel's Private Shame: Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. And the worst place now for Holocaust survivors, argues Time’s former Jerusalem bureau chief, Matt Beynon Rees, might be Israel. (Matt Beynon Rees, 4/21/09, Daily Beast)
    -REVIEW: Of American Parent: My Strange and Surprising Adventures in Modern Babyland, by Sam Apple (Matt Beynon Rees, Ha'aretz)
    -ARCHIVES: Matt Beynon Rees (Global Post)
    -PROFILE: Matt Beynon Rees (Red Room)
    -PROFILE: Mystery And Decay In An Ancient, Occupied City (Eric Westervelt, 8/12/08, NPR)
    -PROFILE: Rees Takes Middle East from Fact to Fiction (Eric Westervelt, 3/25/07, NPR)
    -INTERVIEW: Matt Beynon Rees (Wilda Williams, 12/15/2006, Library Journal)
Your first book, Cain’s Field: Faith, Fratricide and Fear in the Middle East (2004), examined the internal conflicts facing both Palestinians and Israelis. Why did you turn to fiction for your next book?

Fiction tells us more about reality than nonfiction ever can. Nonfiction has many structural limitations and, anyway, whenever I wrote nonfiction I always tried to make it read like dramatic fiction, so that it wouldn’t seem dry. My ambition has always been to write novels. In a sense, I was waiting for the right raw material. After ten years in Jerusalem, I have shelves of notebooks filled with stories of murder, corruption, hatred, and deceit. I decided to take some of the unconnected stories in those notebooks, to change the names, and weave them into a single mystery.

    -PROFILE: Reporter captures fabric of Middle East in novel (Thanassis Cambanis, February 18, 2007, Boston Globe)
    -PROFILE: Our Man in Bethlehem: Matt Beynon Rees creates a new kind of sleuth (Daniel Gross, Mar 13, 2007, Tablet)
    -INTERVIEW: Interview: Palestine as seen by Matt Rees, author of crime novels (Selene Verri, May 14, 2008, Ground Report)
    -PROFILE: Telling It Like It Is (AVI HOFFMANN , 3/25/09, Jerusalem Post)
-REVIEW: of The Omar Yussef Mysteries (Janet McMahon and Donald Neff, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs)
    -REVIEW: of The Samaritan's Secret by Matt Beynon Rees (ILANA TEITELBAUM , Jerusalem Post)
    -REVIEW: of Samaritan's Secret (Mysterious Reviews)
    -REVIEW: of Samaratin's Secret (Claire Schaeffer-Duffy, America Magazine)
    -REVIEW: of Samaratin's Secret (Robert Rees, The Forward)
    -REVIEW: of Samaratin's Secret (Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Samaritan's Secret (Library Journal)
    -REVIEW: of Samaratin's Secret (Carol Novis, Ha'aretz)
    -REVIEW: of A Grave in Gaza by Matt Beynon Rees (Ina Friedman, Ha'aretz)
    -REVIEW: of Grave in Gaza (Joe Hartlaub, Bookreporter)
    -REVIEW: of The Collaborator of Bethlehem by Matt Beynon Rees (Donald Macintyre, Independent)
    -REVIEW: of Collaborator of Bethlehem (Joe Hartlaub, Bookreporter)
    -REVIEW: of Collaborator of Bethlehem (Patrick Anderson, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of Collaborator of Bethlehem (Zelda Shluker, Hadassah Magazine)
    -REVIEW: of Collaborator of Bethlehem (Will Boisvert, Entertainment Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Collaborator of Bethlehem (Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review)

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