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The Collaborator of Bethlehem (Omar Yussef Mystery #1)

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3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  907 Ratings  ·  173 Reviews
“Matt Beynon Rees has taken a complex world of culture clash and suspicion and placed upon it humanity.” âDavid Baldacci, author of The Camel Club

“A beautifully written story. I have walked the streets of Bethlehem with Omar Yussef, smelled the dust and the fear, tasted his food, shared his anger and his hope. His decency is a light in the gloom. I shall not forget him.”
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Hardcover, 272 pages
Published February 1st 2007 by Soho Crime (first published 2006)
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Ron
Apr 25, 2012 Ron rated it really liked it
I'm a reader of books about the Middle East, and this mystery set in Bethlehem on the West Bank caught my eye. At first I didn't think I'd like it, but I was quickly drawn into the twists and turns of plot, a few of them shocking, and felt I'd been immersed in Arab-Israeli political tensions in a way I'd never been before. Welsh-born author Rees, a journalist with Time magazine in Jerusalem, chooses as his central character an Arab history teacher at a UN-run girls school for refugees. A man wit ...more
Steven Z.
May 23, 2013 Steven Z. rated it it was amazing
As a voracious reader of mysteries that have a contemporary political bent I always look forward to title suggestions from others. Last week a friend introduced me to Matt Benyon Rees and his protagonist, Omar Yussef. After reading THE COLLABORATOR OF BETHLEHEM the first of four “Yussef” books, I am sold. Jo Nesbo, Henning Mankell and others of their ilk have nothing on Mr. Rees who has created an evocative character that allows the reader to enter the byzantine politics of the Palestinian movem ...more
Trish
Feb 28, 2009 Trish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries, mideast
Omar Yussef, a crusty grandfather, refuses to mind his own business. Friends run into trouble in Dehaisha, a refugee camp on the outskirts of Bethlehem, and he looks into the void.

This book is overwhelming in its pathos, and terrifying in its implications. This old schoolmaster, Omar Yussef, almost goes out of his way to avoid finding evidence of murder in Dehaisha, perpetrated, he believes, by a leader of the resistance. Instead he finds clues just lying about, ignored by the very people meant
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Elsie Klumpner
Sep 05, 2015 Elsie Klumpner rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery, fiction
I expected to enjoy this book and it did not disappoint. I haven't read any fiction set in occupied Palestine and I was hoping to get a sense of what life is like under the occupation. The author paints a very grim picture. Not only do the Christians and Muslims live in fear of the Israelis' attacks, but they are also at war with each other, living lives full of distrust, violence and inhumanity. There doesn't seem to be any solution.

The mystery is well written and intriguing, with lots of susp
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Ram Kaushik
Apr 22, 2016 Ram Kaushik rated it really liked it
The occupied Palestinian territories (or Israeli territories, depending on your viewpoint) forms a fascinating backdrop to this mystery. The author is a Middle East expert, so offers a nuanced view of life in the West Bank. The book explores the authorities' siege/victim mentality beautifully. The lines between violent thug, terrorist and "martyr for the cause" are incredibly blurry in this novel. Worth a read. Oh, and the mystery is somewhat mundane - but who cares about that?
Valerie Penny
Apr 25, 2014 Valerie Penny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Matt Rees is a Welsh novelist and journalist. This is the first of his books I have read, although he is the author of The Palestine Quartet, a series of crime novels about Omar Yussef a Palestinian sleuth. He is the winner of a Crime Writer’s Association Dagger for his crime fiction. This part of the world has always fascinated me but Rees’s novels approach the Middle East conflict from an often unexpected direction. There are almost no Israeli characters, and the novels maintain a focus on Pal ...more
Marieke
Aug 03, 2008 Marieke rated it really liked it
Recommended to Marieke by: random find in a bookstore.
i don't like reviewing books and plenty of other people reviewed it. i'll just say: i liked it and i'll definitely read the series. i was impressed with how the author handled the complexities of palestinian history and life as an occupied people...i'm wondering what palestinians would make of it but so far i've only seen reviews by non-palestinians.

i thought the following quotes really exemplify what i consider the author's incisiveness:

the problem of religion:

"Omar Yussef looked up into the be
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Jon
Feb 03, 2012 Jon rated it liked it
A very illuminating first novel by the former Jerusalem bureau chief of Time magazine. He draws a very grim, gritty, and realistic picture of life among the Palestinians in Bethlehem, with clan rivalries, corrupt police, fanatical martyr brigades, and normal families trying to survive in the chaos of a power vacuum. A lowly schoolteacher tries to free a man he knows to be innocent while simultaneously finding the person who must be guilty. He hopes the size and strength of his own clan will keep ...more
Meredith Galman
Feb 05, 2008 Meredith Galman rated it it was ok
Shelves: mysteries
Fascinating, even heart-breaking, background of day-to-day life in Palestinian Bethlehem, where increased Muslim nationalism and militarism have driven the Christians into a despised underground minority, thugs and soldiers fighting it out in the streets is a daily occurrence, and the people who are supposed to protect you are just as scary as those they're protecting you from. Unfortunately, author Rees writes in such a dull, affectless style it's difficult to empathize with the characters and ...more
Carol
The Collaborator of Bethlehem is fascinating. It works better as an authentic description of life as a Palestinian in Bethlehem, and the significance of rule of law to every day existence, than it does as a mystery, but it works fine as a mystery, at least for the initial 80%. That's the point where I wanted to grab Omar by the shoulders and say, "stop!" in the same way that you scream at the TV or movie screen at your protagonist not to head into a certain building because the score and fact t ...more
Nitya Sivasubramanian
Nov 24, 2015 Nitya Sivasubramanian rated it liked it
Shelves: 3star
This was an incredibly hard book for me to read, simply because it captures so accurately the heartache of having no answers to questions of ethics and morality in a war zone with no good guys and bad guys, just guys with guns.

Honestly, in a fun little twist to the genre, I found the murder mystery itself paled in comparison to the interest generated by the investigator himself. In fact, I would venture to say that any other character would have left me so bored I wouldn't have even bothered fin
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Carol
Jun 24, 2015 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Provides Insight

I bought this book following a trip to Israel. I often learn a lot about places I travel to as well as enjoy the story from reading fiction and mysteries set there. This book was excellent at slowly revealing the intricate motives and prejudices of different factions in Bethlehem. Americans can't really understand the depth of hatred and desire for revenge and hardly realize the true players, which are far more numerous than just Arabs vs Jews. This story revealed a lot of that f
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Christina Sampson
[Warning: The introduction to the review of the book is rather long; I apologize for that but felt it necessary to ensure readers have the complete context from which I base this review. In an era of soundbites, pull quotes, memes and GIFs, I shall plant my lonely flag of exposition. It’s a luxury afforded to those of us who have maybe two people who read our blog.]

It can be very easy in today’s information-saturated age to believe one understand a place and its people, even never having been th
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P.J. Coldren
Sep 01, 2014 P.J. Coldren rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the Middle East, people who like dark fiction
Wonderful writing. Awful to read, because of content and tone - this is SO not a world I want to live in. Still I kept reading because Mr. Rees sucked me into this unpleasant and very scary world, and made me care about some of the people in it. Will I read this again? Probably not. Will I read something else by this writer? Almost certainly.
Hermien
Jul 27, 2015 Hermien rated it really liked it
A well written, hard hitting, crime novel in a fascinating setting and against a politically very interesting background. I look forward to the next books in the series.
Alec
Dec 07, 2016 Alec rated it liked it
For the most part, this book made me extremely sad. It starts with a note that while the book is a work of fiction, all of the deaths depicted in the book are based on real events. As the story progresses and the Palestinians fight with one another, I was left confused and saddened. It seems impossible that there could be peace in the region if there are factions within Palestine who fight with one another as much as they fight with the Israelis. All that being said, my understanding of the con ...more
Roshni
Nov 06, 2016 Roshni rated it really liked it
Showcases the harsh reality of the situation in Bethlehem and probably other areas under contention between Palestinians and Israelis. In the midst of idealism, pragmatism, martyrdom, and the swirl of ideas used to justify and explain almost every event, Omar's friend is accused of being a "collaborator" with the Israelis. The ineffectiveness of the police and pretty much anyone in trying to get what is loosely termed "justice" frustrates Omar, and he decides he will try and help his friend hims ...more
Kimberly Scearce-levie
Dec 28, 2016 Kimberly Scearce-levie rated it really liked it
A dark detective novel. Not dark in the American film noir vein, but dark in a messy MidEast politics vein. The hero is no hard-boiled loner, but a 56 year old schoolteacher and family man who constantly is aware of his own mortality lurking around the corner. The victim is a Palestinian "martyr", shot by Israeli snipers and apparently betrayed by a Christian neighbor. The hero doubts that the neighbor, a former student, was the collaborator who gave up the victim. As he tries to prove his case, ...more
Kristel
Apr 27, 2011 Kristel rated it it was amazing
Few detective novels have managed to elicit a profoundly emotional response from me the way The Collaborator of Bethlehem had. For his debut novel, Matt Beynon Rees plumbs the depths of his experience as Time Magazine's former Israel bureau chief to create a compelling mystery set within the context of an extremely polarizing Israel/Palestine conflict. This unflinching but compassionate portrait of life in the West Bank gives readers who are only familiar with the region through pithy CNN headli ...more
Karen
As implausible as it sounds Omar Yussef is a man in the middle of an awful situation that you want to meet. Spend some time with. Drink some sa'ada coffee. Talk to about his Bethlehem. Omar brings a unique perspective to murder, to power games and to fanaticism whilst simultaneously providing a human and humane view of life in his Bethlehem. That Bethlehem is a world of conflict within and from without his own society; and the tension that changed viewpoints between generations brings. Where onc ...more
Helen
First line: Omar Yussef, a teacher of history to the unhappy children of Dehaisha refugee camp, shuffled stiffly up the meandering road, past the gray, stone homes built in the time of the Turks on the edge of Beit Jala.

When a young member of the Palestinian resistance is shot dead near his home on the outskirts of Bethlehem, George Saba, a Christian, is arrested as the collaborator who led the Israelis to him. As a member of the minority Christian community, he is a convenient scapegoat, but O
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Spuddie
Sep 01, 2009 Spuddie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
#1 Omar Yussef mystery set in Bethlehem, Israel. Omar Yussef is a fifty-six-year-old history teacher, an alcoholic who's been dry for ten years. Obviously not a devout Muslim, he does the best he can in an ever-changing, violent world to teach his students right from wrong and respect for all. When one of his former students, George Saba, is accused of being a collaborator with the Israelites and murdering one of the local heros, Omar takes a leave of absence from his school and sets out to inve ...more
Gary
Dec 19, 2012 Gary rated it really liked it
"The Collaborator of Bethlehem" presents us with an unlikely detective, Omar Yussef. Actually, he's not a detective at all, but a grandfather and a schoolteacher in a UN school in the Palestinian territories. He can be short-tempered and impulsive in the conclusions he draws. He can be cranky, and those he is beloved by some, is considered with suspicion and contempt by others.

Setting a mystery in the complex political context of Palestine adds a lot of flavor to the story. I have spent time mys
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Dana
Mar 18, 2014 Dana rated it liked it
I really enjoy the Passport to Mystery series from Soho Crime. They publish mystery novels which are set all over the world. I felt like journeying to the lands of the Bible and picked up a copy of “The Collaborator of Bethlehem”, set in the modern day city of the traditional birthplace of Jesus. While marketed as a mystery, it is more an evocation of a place and time in which law has no place and killing is seemingly done on a whim.
The book introduces Omar Yussef, a Palestinian school teacher w
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Tony
Feb 15, 2009 Tony rated it really liked it
Rees, Matt Beynon. THE COLLABORATOR OF BETHLEHEM. (2007). ****. This debut novel introduces Omar Yussef, a teacher of history at a UN-supported school in the city of Bethlehem, on the West Bank. Omar, also known as Abu Ramiz, has been a teacher for many, many years. He is 57-years old, and has become severly disillusioned over the years by the increasing friction among the Israelis, the Arabs, and the Christians. He has endeavored over the years to teach his young students to put aside factional ...more
Cathy Cole
Sep 08, 2015 Cathy Cole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rees has created a story with a superb sense of time and place, and he does so by showing the humanity of all sides. The monsters aren't all Palestinian. Or Israeli. The mistakes being made aren't all being made by Palestinians or Israelis. And there are good people on every side. This is a story to experience. A story for the mind and for the emotions.

One of the good people is Omar Yussef, who feels that he may be coming to the end of his usefulness. He can't seem to stop being angry at the chi
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Judi Moore
Feb 17, 2016 Judi Moore rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love to learn Stuff when I read fiction. As anyone who knows me can testify, I know a little bit about a lot of things. I have no patience with stories that incorporate material which is out of place, fudged or wrong. Good fiction depends on a skeleton of good facts. This novel comes across from the get-go as being by an author who knows what he’s writing about. He says, on his Amazon page: “The aim of my fiction is to take real stories I covered as a journalist and to weave them together to m ...more
Merrikay
Jul 27, 2013 Merrikay rated it really liked it
After my last read I was looking for something light, and went to my usual, a mystery. Well, light it wasn't, but a good transition perhaps. I just stumbled across this book and grabbed it. Matt Rees writes out of his experience as a journalist covering the mid-East for over a decade for Time, Newsweek, and The Scotsman. He was born in Wales which I thought brought a unique perspective to his story.

This book has all of the standard ingredients of a good murder mystery, but with some added twists
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Susan
Oct 24, 2008 Susan rated it liked it
I first heard of this book from an NPR series on writers who set mysteries in particular cities. I liked the idea of a mystery series set on the West Bank. The author is a Welshman who’s been a journalist in the Middle East. This is the first novel in what’s meant to be a series.
I both liked and didn’t like this one. It was a slow read and it was often hard to tell where the story was going. On the other hand, the outcome was not in the least predictable and the author’s version of life in the P
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SinudaMN
Mar 18, 2011 SinudaMN rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ini adalah buku kedua mengenai konflik Palestin-Israel yang saya baca selepas The Last Testament. Keseluruhannya buku ini buat saya tidak mahu lepaskannya (tapi terpaksa juga baca lambat-lambat kerana saya tidak punya banyak buku).


Mengisahkan tentang cabaran yang dihadapi oleh seorang guru sejarah, Omar Yussef, untuk cuba membebaskan pelajar terbaiknya, George Saba, daripada dijatuhkan hukuman kerana dituduh menjadi orang tengah (atau mungkin perisik) bagi pihak Israel. Dalam cubaan untuk membe
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I'm an award-winning writer of international thrillers, mysteries, and historical fiction. My latest is THE DAMASCUS THREAT, the first in a series of thrillers about US ICE agent Dominic Verrazzano. This one is set in New York and Syria. My mysteries about Palestinian sleuth Omar Yussef won prizes in the UK, the US and France, including the UK Crime Writers Association New Blood Dagger. I've writt ...more
More about Matt Rees...

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Omar Yussef Mystery (4 books)
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