13 June 2008 0 Comments

Jewish Chronicle: The Saladin Murders ‘a real rarity’

The Jewish Chronicle publishes a terrific review of my Palestinian mystery novels this week. Here’s some of what reviewer Jenni Frazer writes:

Rees loads the dice against Omar Yussef: he’s in his 50s, short, balding, and once upon a time he was a drunk. But he is also, we learn, a uxorious and extremely affectionate family man, who adores his fond but scolding wife and his favourite grandchild, and genuinely loves the children whom he teaches.

Most of all, Omar Yussef is…a peace-loving, pragmatic man, who won’t buy into the myths created by the Palestinian population about itself and who, while resenting the occupation, still refuses to demonise the occupiers. In The Saladin Murders (US title A Grave in Gaza), Yussef…is driven by a kind of dogged decency in his attempt to investigate the truth about a fellow teacher who has been accused of links with the CIA.

Rees is excellent on the whispering culture of the Palestinian street — which tries, condemns, and then executes a man before any doubts can be raised. He is also rather good on that most difficult of problems for a thriller writer: how omnipotent or heroic to make his central character.

Intriguingly, the Israelis are a largely unseen presence in the books, which perhaps is a relief. Rees thus avoids making Omar Yussef into an Uncle Tom. Instead, we get —a real rarity in English-language fiction — a fascinating insight into Palestinian life, its plots, conspiracies, and near relentless misery. In fact, both of Rees’s books will give anyone who is interested in the conflict a different view. I highly recommend The Saladin Murders.

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