Summary and book reviews of The Collaborator of Bethlehem by Matt Beynon Rees

The Collaborator of Bethlehem

An Omar Yussef Mystery

by Matt Beynon Rees

The Collaborator of Bethlehem
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2007, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2008, 272 pages

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Book Summary

For decades, Omar Yussef has been a teacher of history to the children of Bethlehem. When a favorite former pupil is arrested for collaborating with the Israelis, Omar is sure he has been framed. Then the wife of the dead man, also one of Omar Yussef’s former pupils, is murdered, possibly raped. And, as no one else will, it is up to him to investigate.

For decades, Omar Yussef has been a teacher of history to the children of Bethlehem. When a favorite former pupil, George Saba, a member of the Palestinian Christian minority, is arrested for collaborating with the Israelis in the killing of a Palestinian guerrilla, Omar is sure he has been framed. If George is not cleared, he faces imminent execution.

Then the wife of the dead man, also one of Omar Yussef’s former pupils, is murdered, possibly raped. When he begins to suspect the head of the Bethlehem al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is the true collaborator, Omar and his family are threatened. But as no one else is willing to stand up to the violent Martyrs Brigades men, who hold the real power in the town, it is up to him to investigate.

The Collaborator of Bethlehem, first published in the UK as The Bethlehem Murders, won the 2008 Crime Writers Association's John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award - the prestigious CWA award given to the best first novel of the year.

Chapter 1

Omar Yussef, a teacher of history to the unhappy children of Dehaisha refugee camp, shuffled stiffly up the meandering road, past the gray, stone homes built in the time of the Turks on the edge of Beit Jala. He paused in the strong evening wind, took a comb from the top pocket of his tweed jacket, and tried to tame the strands of white hair with which he covered his baldness. He glanced down at his maroon loafers in the orange flicker of the buzzing street lamp and tutted at the dust that clung to them as he tripped along the uneven roadside, away from Bethlehem.

In the darkness at the corner of the next alley, a gunman coughed and expectorated. The gob of sputum landed at the border of the light and the gloom, as though the man intended for Omar Yussef to see it. He resisted the urge to scold the sentry for his vulgarity, as he would have one of his pupils at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency Girls School. The young thug, though obscured by the...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The Collaborator of Bethlehem is an exceptionally powerful and highly readable mystery that opens a window for the reader into the soul-destroying conditions experienced by people living on the West Bank. Omar Yussef is a welcome addition to the world of fictional detectives and one we will hopefully be hearing from again very soon, as Rees plans to explore the full scope of how Palestinians live today through Omar. A second book, set in Gaza, is already with his publisher; the third book will be set in Nablus.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews

The Boston Globe - Thanassis Cambanis

Unlike many books about the Arab-Israeli conflict or news stories about Palestinian communities, Rees's book vividly captures the fabric of daily Palestinian life.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Though the story's conclusion offers a gratifying payoff, for many readers the real reward will be a more immediate sense of a distant and bewildering conflict.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Evoking a strong sense of place, this nontraditional mystery is bleak, philosophical, and powerful; an excellent addition to any collection.

Booklist - Bill Ott

Starred Review. Rees captures the human spark of daily lives being led in totally polarized, soul-deadening conditions.

The New York Times - Marilyn Stasio

In a world where civilization has broken down into “ignorant, simple-minded, violent politics,” this decent man commits the ultimate act of heroism — keeping an open mind.

Kirkus Reviews

In a city already divided by hatred, Omar Yussef's sleuthing is bound to be anticlimactic. But no one will forget his violent world.

Reader Reviews

Rita

The Collaborator of Bethlehem
It should be remembered that this book is presented as the start of a mystery series and not as a novel or scholarly work about the Middle East. As a mystery it is engaging and attention-holding and more importantly to me, it is memorable. I ...   Read More

Vivian

Collaborator of Bethlehem
It is well written and gives a different perspective of the problems in the area showcasing the people and the dangers of living in a war-torn area. Portrays the everyday lives of the families and the difficulties faced by the people in trying to ...   Read More

James K.

No cigar
This is fiction but many professional reviewers have treated it as representing real life in the West Bank. From that perspective I was disappointed by the author's failure to explore differences among the many kinds of Palestinian interest groups ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

A Short History of Palestine

  • The Canaanites are the earliest known civilization to live in the area of land at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, living in city-states such as Jericho around 3,000 BCE. Positioned close to Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia and Asia Minor the area was not only a meeting point for different cultures but also a battleground for various empires such as the Assyrians and Egyptians, and was fought over by different groups of invaders including the Amorites, Hittites and Hurrians.
  • Around the 14th ...

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