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The Collaborator of Bethlehem (Omar Yussef Mystery #1)

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3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  702 ratings  ·  151 reviews
This powerful first novel from British journalist Rees humanizes the struggle of the West Bank, where Omar Yussef, a modest 56-year-old schoolteacher in the Dehaisha Palestinian refugee camp, becomes an unlikely detective amid the uncertainties and violence of modern Bethlehem. Israeli gunfire peppers the area, the Muslims mistrust the minority Christian population, and th ...more
Kindle Edition, 272 pages
Published February 1st 2007 by Soho Crime (first published 2006)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,272)
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Trish
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
...more
Ron
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
Jon
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
Steven Z.
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
Dana
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
...more
Kaija
I really wanted to like this book. Sadly, that didn't work out so well.

I do enjoy books set in the Middle East, and this was my first time reading a murder mystery set there. So, I was hoping for the best.
Unfortunately, I found the plot to be very predictable, and to me, that made a big difference. The setting was ok, and I feel like the characters would grow as the series developed. However, I don't really want to keep reading to really get to know them.
Unless someone hands me another one of
...more
Jeanne
Many years ago I visited Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity. How sad I was to revisit that locale is this book and read about the turmoil and chaos that exists there now.

Omar Yussef is a schoolteacher on the verge of retirement who decides to get involved in the death of a young man. He will be a detective and solve the mystery of this man's murder. As difficult as it may be to solve any murder, it is much harder when the world around you is filled with collaborators & terrorists and
...more
Alex
Interesting to read a mystery taking place in present day Palestinian Territories. I gained a better appreciation of living in this war torn area and trying to live a regular life. The book deals more with the effect of Palestinian factions than the Israeli conflict. Sometimes our worst enemies are those next door. And sometimes it is difficult to keep a moral compass, especially when it could mean our own life or that of our families. The author had been the Jerusalem bureau chief for Time maga ...more
Val
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
L Taylor
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kristel
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
Susan
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
...more
Merrikay
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
...more
Rob Kitchin
As first novels go, they won’t come much better than this for a reader like me who likes a
mix of a strong plot, good characterization and memorable characters, informative contextual history, good pacing, a balanced blend of action and dialogue which lacks overly thick description, and a story that stimulates my interest in a place and issue and stays with me long after I finish reading it. Most of what I know about the daily lives of Palestinians is gleamed from television news. Beynon Rees ope
...more
Ensiform
Omar Yussef, a history teacher at the UN school in Bethlehem, is nearing retirement age. When one of his former students, George, a Christian, is arrested for being a collaborator with the Israelis, and another student's husband is killed, he takes a leave of absence to investigate. Finding overwhelming evidence that the Martyrs' Brigade – a gang of cowardly hoods – actually did the killing, he fights to save George despite the overwhelming atmosphere of violence and vengeance that pervades Beth ...more
Patricia
This one came hurtling out of left field and blew me away. It’s a straightforward read packed with considerable insights on Palestinian culture written in a fluid, stylish prose. I was dead set on judging it as a Mideast version of the Patterson rubbish abandoned in booksales but mercifully proved to be more than just your run-off-the-mill genre fiction. The character of Omar Yussef is credible. I appreciated his commitment to educate the youth, his integrity, his passionate efforts to save an i ...more
Gary
"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
...more
Richard
This is a very good first novel which sets up the series well and leaves you wanting to read more. Set in and around Bethlehem during the intifada it looks very closely at friendship, history, religion and how individuals can perhaps make a difference.
However, this is very much a crime story. When a close friend is arrested under threat of death for collaboration, Omar Yussef a history teacher embarks on investigating matters to try to save his former pupil.
I really enjoyed the sense of place an
...more
Marieke
Aug 03, 2008 Marieke rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Luckngrace
Although presented as a mystery, all the situations in this fascinating book are true stories with names changed. I've read several books trying to answer my questions about why muslims do the things they do, but this book explains what is happening in Israel with such simplicity that most of my questions have been answered. Above all, I learned that a "Palestinian homeland" would just be a land ruled by violent gangs that kill their own people as well as anyone else who questions their dominanc ...more
Tony
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
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
...more
Kathleen Hagen
The Collaborator of Bethlehem, A-minus, by Matt Deymon Rees, narrated by Peter Ganim, produced by audible inc. downloaded from audible.com.

Omar Yuset is a schoolteacher now at a girls school. He has had few pupils in his lifetime whom he remembers for their bright intelligence, but George Saba was one. When a “martyr” (terrorist) is murdered, Saba is blamed, because he is a Christian, even though the police don’t really think he’s guilty. Yusef sets about trying to prove him innocent and save hi
...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
Lori
The Collaborator of Bethlehem, isn't a mystery in the traditional sense, but is of a genre of new books in which the mystery is secondary to the characters development and the time and place that the story evolves in. I loved it! If you enjoy this type of story, and not the more formulaic mystery, this is definetly a novel for you to pick up and invest time in reading.
Matt Benynon Rees has created a very life like central character in Omar Yussef a Muslim living in the West Bank. The story very
...more
Shonna Froebel
This is the first mystery is what promises to be a series featuring Omar Yussef, a teacher at the UN girls school in Bethlehem. Omar is in his fifties and has lived in Bethlehem since he was a child. He lives with his wife Maryam and their son and his family. He has two other children who have left to go abroad. He is a teacher who believes in using reason and judgment rather than just believing what you are told or what you read and he encourages this kind of thinking in his students, sometimes ...more
Rosemary
The cover states: An Omar Yussef Mystery and I look forward to future installments from this author. I don't usually enjoy mysteries, but I was fascinated by this story that takes place in the Palestinian refugee camp, near the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, remembered by our carol, "O Little Town of Bethlehem". Omar Yussef is trying to solve the mystery of who set up his former Christian student, George Saba, as a collaborator in the death of Louai Abdel Rahmen. It is a winding tale of betr ...more
Betty
This is the first in a series of mysteries featuring Omar Yussef, a middle-aged Palestinian teacher in a U.N. school. As a "whodunnit," it is so-so; you don't get to follow the clues to figure out the culprit; and I'd have enjoyed the story more if fewer pages were devoted to Yussef's dithering over whether his work is valuable and whether his ideas put his students in danger. What I really appreciated was the depictions of the conflicts and tensions that fester under the occupation -- impotent ...more
SinudaMN
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
...more
Deon Stonehouse
The Collaborator of Bethlehem by Matt Beynon Rees is the first of a mystery series set in Palestine. Mr. Rees was the Times Bureau Chief during the Intifada. He is a Welshman who has chosen to stay in Palestine and raise his son. His mystery series is based on the real stories he covered as a journalist. I liked that this mystery concentrates on Palestinian culture, and is not an exploration of the Palestinian - Israeli conflict. As the story opens Omar is having dinner with an old student, Geor ...more
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8063
I'm an award-winning crime novelist--mysteries, thrillers, and historical fiction. My first novel (about Palestinian sleuth Omar Yussef) won the UK Crime Writers Association New Blood Dagger. I've written historical novels about the mysterious deaths of the composer Mozart and Caravaggio, the Italian artist. I'm working on a thriller series about a US agent. Set in New York, which is where my wife ...more
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“Love is not an option. It's the choice of an idiot who wants to end with nothing, robbed and abused and humiliated.” 6 likes
“Life is terrorism, so spare me your indignation. Life is one big infiltration of our secure defenses. Some people put bombs on buses and blow them up: those are terrorists. Some people speak to you and their words blow you up: what would you call those people? Life is a condemned cell. . . . That's the only way to protect yourself . . . to understand that you're always under sentence of death and to try to get a temporary remission.” 2 likes
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