4 December 2007 0 Comments

Booklist: New Omar Yussef novel has "power, style, and emotion"

Though my second Omar Yussef Mystery (titled in the US A Grave in Gaza and in the UK The Saladin Murders) won’t be out until February, already the pre-publication reviewers are impressed. Booklist, a big US publication read by librarians and booksellers, gives A Grave in Gaza a starred review in its forthcoming issue. Here’s what reviewer Bill Ott writes:

Rees’ The Collaborator of Bethlehem (2007) may have been last year’s best mystery debut. This followup, again starring Omar Yussef, the mild-mannered Palestinian history teacher determined to defy all the ideologues who exploit his homeland, is every bit as good as its predecessor. This time the 56-year-old Yussef travels from his home in Bethlehem to the Gaza Strip, where he is part of a team sent to inspect UN schools. Shortly after arriving, though, he becomes embroiled in the case of another teacher, who has been arrested for espionage; his efforts to help the teacher serve only to stir an already boiling pot, and soon the soft-spoken Yussef is in the middle of a deadly squabble between Gaza’s warring government leaders and the criminal gangs with whom they conspire. Like the late Batya Gur, Rees combines solid mystery plotting with a literary novelist’s emphasis on character and the small human dramas that happen within the broader sociopolitical landscape. And, unlike many crime writers, he writes with great power, style, and emotion: “Gaza bellowed and struggled like an injured donkey, while its rulers played the role of the angry farmer, furiously beating the stricken beast, though they knew it couldn’t get up.”

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