23 February 2008 0 Comments

Daily Express: Omar Yussef ‘clearly a detective who is here to stay’

Here’s a review in the big UK newspaper The Daily Express of my new crime novel The Saladin Murders (US title: A Grave in Gaza)

TRUE GRIT ON A QUEST FOR JUSTICE
Matt Rees has embarked on a series rooted in violence
Friday February 15,2008
By Peter Burton

There was once a time when thrillers could be roughly divided into two categories. There were tales about dirty deeds in idyllic English villages, mainly written by women. And then there were hard-boiled, high-octane stories about America’s criminal underworld, generally penned by men.

Then things became more diverse, more interesting. Now female writers frequently seem even more explicitly violent than their male counterparts and period and locale can be most unexpected.

Matt Rees, for example, has embarked on a series rooted in the violence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The first of these novels, The Bethlehem Murders, appeared last year. The Saladin Murders is the second.

Journalist Rees was based in the Middle East for 10 years, six of which were spent in Jerusalem. His experiences as a reporter have provided him with a rich source of material for his fiction and this is clearly evident from the detailed observation which gives veracity to both plot and characterisation.

His main protagonist is certainly out of the ordinary. Omar Yussef is Palestinian, in his late 50s and feeling his age.

He is the principal of a United Nations supported school in Bethlehem, with contacts in the security services and the police. He is a believer in truth and justice – regardless of the dangers into which that may put him.

As The Saladin Murders begins, Yussef and a UN envoy have arrived in Gaza City to undertake a tour of inspection of schools in the war-ravaged area. It is not long, however, before they find themselves looking into the arrest of a Palestinian lecturer who also works part time for the humanitarian organisation.

Events are further complicated when the envoy is kidnapped and a colleague blown up by a roadside bomb.

Yussef finds himself trapped between murderous factions of gunmen, bombers and torturers as he races against time to rescue the envoy and, along the way, avert a political disaster that could intensify the hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians.

The Saladin Murders is a gritty novel which maintains a high level of tension until the closing pages.

Yussef is quite clearly a detective who is here to stay.

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