mandag den 18. januar 2010

Matt Rees, The Bethlehem Murders (2007)

[Dansk titel: Kollaboratøren fra Betlehem, 2008]

US title: The Collaborator of Bethlehem

Read for the 2010 Global Reading Challenge (Asia) + What´s in a Name Challenge (place).

This novel is Matt Rees´ debut. The writer lives in Israel, and as the title indicates, the story takes place in a town that many of us associate with birth, not death. But this is Bethlehem in the twenty first century:

“George Saba´s family huddled against the thick, stone wall of his bedroom. It was the side of the house farthest from the guns. George came through the front door. The shooting was louder inside and he realized the bullets were punching through the windows into his apartment. He ducked into an alcove in the corridor and crouched against the wall.”

The protagonist, Omar Yussef, is an Arab history teacher. One of his old students, the Christian antique dealer George Saba, is arrested, suspected of having killed a member of the Palestinian resistance movement. Yussef cannot believe Saba would collaborate with the Israeli, he suspects his former student must be set up, possibly because he is a Christian.

Omar Yussef is a wise and likeable, very human character, who has had problems with alcohol, and who does his best to make his pupils think for themselves, not just accept the ´truths´ they hear or read. As Yussef makes it clear at some point, it is difficult to decide who are the terrorists and who are the terrorized, but though he fears for his own and his family´s safety, he fights for George Saba´s life, and for everything he believes in.

This crime story, which is built on real events, is a story that should be told! Like many other stories about real crime, the plot is not the strongest point, however. So this is a novel you should read for the very vivid sense of place and the credible characters, which makes it a good choice for the Global Reading Challenge.

I bought this book myself.

15 kommentarer:

R/T sagde ...

Dorte, like me, you might also enjoy THE SAMARITAN'S SECRET, another superb whodunit from Rees.

R/T sagde ...

I previously reviewed the aforementioned book here at BOOKLOONS

Anonym sagde ...

Dorte - Thanks for introducing me to Matt Rees. You're right that crime stories that are based on real events are often not as strong on plot. This one, though, seems like a very good read. I always like learning about new authors : ).

Dorte H sagde ...

RT: thank you for your link. I have the second on my shelf from the library so I will try to read that one and see how he develops.

Margot: I will probably never enjoy real crime as much as more intricate mysteries fabricated in the minds of crime lovers, but the protagonist of this one, Omar Yussef, is first class.

Cathy sagde ...

Thanks for reminding me to put this book on my wish list at Paperback Swap. I just tried reading The Saturday Morning Murder by Batya Gur which is set in Jerusalem, but the pace was so glacial that I just had to stop in self defense.

Dorte H sagde ...

Cathy: I think conventions in other parts of the world are quite different from ours, because many novels written by Asians seem ´slow´ to readers from the Western world. Matt Rees was born in Wales, however, so he should live up to your expectations with regard to pace, I think ;D

Bernadette sagde ...

His first two books have appeared on my top reads for the year for the past two years - they are so evocative of their time and place. Plus they're good yarns.

I agree with Cathy that the Batya Gur books are insufferably slow :)

Søren sagde ...

Hej Dorte,

jeg har tildelt dig en award til samlingen :-)

Se mere på min blog:

Dorte H sagde ...

Bernadette: I´ll try to read his next book soon (as I have it from the library).

Søren: ja, det så jeg jo! Tusind tak, især for de smukke ord om min blog!

Elizabeth Spann Craig sagde ...

Interesting! I'm not familiar with Rees. Thanks for the tip.

Mystery Writing is Murder
Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

Sandra sagde ...

I've wondered about this author. I was so sorry when Batya Gur died that there would be no more mysteries by her. I love reading mysteries set in Israel/Palestine but I'm fussy about wasting my time reading dreck until I find some good ones. These characters sound interesting,(not so sure a Welshman can give me the flavour I'm looking for) but I trust your judgement and will try Rees. Thank you for reviewing this book.

Matt Beynon Rees sagde ...

hi Dorte, Thanks for highlighting my book. (By the way, it was published in the US under the title THE COLLABORATOR OF BETHLEHEM -- just in case anyone tries to order both of them, I thought I would point out that it's the same book!) I'm glad to hear that you have the second one on your shelf to read, and also delighted that RT liked the third book THE SAMARITAN'S SECRET. Well, I'm going to New York in a week for the release of the fourth book in the series, THE FOURTH ASSASSIN. ...With regard to the "true crime" element of the books, everything is true in so far as I covered these things as a journalist. I then created a mystery that would allow me to weave them all together. So they're both true and fiction. Thanks for writing about my books. Best, Matt

Beth F sagde ...

This is a new to be author, but I like mysteries based on true events and I like the setting. Because the author was born in Wales, the writing style should be familiar. I'll have to add it my wish list.

Dorte H sagde ...

Hi Matt. How fun to meet the author (one of these extra blessings of the internet). It is good to see that some crime fiction writers are doing well (I have seen several reviews of your series lately).

Beth: yes, this is not like reading Chinese fiction in translation ;) - and yet, Matt Rees has a solid platform to write from as he has worked as a journalist in Jerusalem for more than ten years.

Dorte H sagde ...

Sandra: in my opinion Rees´ book is very far from dreck. I have not read Batya Gur, and of course Matt Rees is not a native Israeli, but he has lived and worked in Israel since 1996.