29 November 2006 0 Comments

Publishers Weekly, Booklist Give Me Top Marks

Publishers Weekly and Booklist, two important arenas for pre-publication reviews, give my forthcoming “The Collaborator of Bethlehem” starred reviews. Here are some excerpts:

“This powerful first novel from British journalist Rees humanizes the struggle of the West Bank, where Omar Yussef, a modest 56-year old schoolteacher in the Dehaisha Palestinian refugee camp, becomes an unlikely detective amid the uncertainties and violence of modern Bethlehem. … The characters and the setting are so richly textured and the politicized events so wrenching that the mystery story becomes incidental. 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.”
— Publishers Weekly, starred review

In Booklist, the century-old publication of the American Library Association, reviewer Bill Ott assigns a star to the book and writes:
“Omar Yussef knows he is not a brave man (“What an old fool you are, scrambling about in a battle zone in your nice shoes”), but his determination to stand up for his friend outweighs the futility of his quest, even if it means jeopardizing his family. The premise of this gripping first novel by Time magazine’s former Jerusalem bureau chief evokes that sense of mean-streets honor that drives so much crime fiction, but there is no sentimentality lurking beneath Rees’s complex, uncompromising tale of a good man trapped in an untenable world. The plot unfolds with a tragic inevitability, but along the way, Rees captures the human spark of daily lives being led in totally polarized, soul-deadening conditions. Ideologically driven absurdity blocks Yussef’s way from every direction, but he plods on in his nice shoes, determined to throw “the filth out of his own home with hopelessly insufficient tools.” With the recent death of Israeli novelist Batya Gur, there is a very large gap to be filled in the crime fiction of the Middle East, and Rees seems poised to fill it.”

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