24 February 2007 0 Comments

New York Times Book Review: The Collaborator of Bethlehem "an astonishing first novel"

The New York Times Book Review features this terrific review by Marilyn Stasio this week:
All it takes is one good man — a detective, of course — to humanize events that confound understanding. In THE COLLABORATOR OF BETHLEHEM, an astonishing first novel by Matt Beynon Rees, the former Jerusalem bureau chief for Time magazine, that honorable man is Omar Yussef, a middle-aged history teacher at a United Nations-run school for Palestinian children outside Bethlehem. When a Christian friend is unjustly accused of collaborating in the Israeli assassination of a local resistance fighter, this mild-mannered schoolteacher finds the courage to stand up to a milita outfit, the Martyrs Brigades, while conducting his own clandestine search for the real killer. Setting a mystery in the epicenter of a war zone challenges the genre conventions, but it doesn’t change the rules. In fact, it clarifies the role of the detective as the voice of reason, crying to be heard above the cacophony of gun-barrel politics. Watching friends die and neighbors turn on one another, Omar Yussef decides that “it’s time for me to scream.” 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.

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