21 December 2009 0 Comments

My Manchurian Candidate

One of my biggest boosters has been Bill Ott, reviewer for the pre-publication review Booklist. Here’s his review of my forthcoming THE FOURTH ASSASSIN, which is out in the US and the UK on Feb. 1:

“Road-trips in crime series have the built-in problem of removing their heroes from the landscapes that define them. Rees’ Bethlehem history teacher and occasional sleuth Omar Yussef is a strong enough character to survive a temporary transplant to New York, but that’s not to say we don’t miss the vividly evoked Palestine setting. Yussef has agreed to attend a UN conference in Manhattan because it will give him a chance to see his son Ala who is living in Brooklyn’s Little Palestine neighborhood. The reunion is spoiled, however, when Yussef finds one of Ala’s roommates dead, the victim of what appears to be a ritual killing. With Ala a suspect, Yussef attempts to find the killer. Could the history lessons that Yussef once taught Ala and his friends have been corrupted into a contemporary suicide-assassination plot? Although the setting and the high-concept thriller plot—the finale evokes The Manchurian Candidate—take us too far away from the small human dramas that usually drive this series, Yussef himself never loses sight of what he calls the life that remains when politics is sluiced away like the filth a stray dog leaves in the street.”

I like what Bill sees in the novel–and its predecessors–because I’ve tried to make Omar Yussef a detective who confronts small aspects of the violence around him, rather than writing the kind of thriller where one guy saves the world. That wouldn’t reflect the Palestinian reality.

I moved a little further from that smallness of conflict and locality with this new book. Here’s why: while a “road trip” can detract from some detectives, it’s in the nature of the Palestinian reality to be taken far from home. Most Palestinians, after all, live outside “Palestine.” Omar Yussef is lonely and alien in New York, outside his usual milieu. Encapsulating that diaspora is one of the things about which I’m most pleased when it comes to THE FOURTH ASSASSIN.

Leave a Reply