Ensiform's Reviews > The Collaborator of Bethlehem

The Collaborator of Bethlehem by Matt Rees
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's review
Jul 24, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction, mystery

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 Bethlehem.

This is a crime novel and in a loose sense a thriller, though it's not so much a whodunit, as the reader is treated to Yussef’s every (seemingly justified) suspicion as new facts come to his attention. He considers every angle, even that his old friend the police chief is corrupt; he must, because that's the world he lives in. An immersion in the culture of the middle east, the book is a character study, and a study of place as well, evoking strongly the despair, the rage, the shame, the helplessness, and the resignation of those living under the Occupation. Powerfully written, moving, complex, and all too human, this is a wonderful debut novel.

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