A Grave in Gaza – An Omar Yussef Mystery

Matt Beynon Rees – Soho Press Inc. (2008)

I’m not much of a fan of mysteries and probably wouldn’t have picked up this book except for the title “A Grave in Gaza” and the setting, the Gaza Strip.

A Palestinian principal of an UNRWA school in Bethlehem (Omar Yussef) accompanies his U.N. colleagues to check up on some UNRWA schools in Gaza. When they arrive, their journey suddenly takes a detour when they learn of the arrest of a UN teacher who apparently has uncovered a corrupt “diploma for sale” operation. How can they get to the bottom of the scandal and free him?

This fast-paced mystery weaves many facets of Palestinian life into the plot, including: rival militant gangs, the government security forces, the tunnels in Rafah, and the corrupt Palestinian leadership. There are several mysteries within the larger plot that keep the reader on his/her toes.

Personally, I was intrigued with the author’s description of locations in Gaza with which I’m familiar. So realistic, in fact, that I felt myself transported back to Gaza City, Rafah, Deir El-Balah and Jabalyia. I never met any characters who matched the ruthlessness of the militants or Palestinian leaders in this book, but I wouldn’t be surprise if they exist.

Nothing is really like what it appears in Gaza, especially to foreigners, which makes excellent fodder for a mystery series.

A Grave in Gaza is the second Omar Yussef Mystery, following The Collaborator of Bethlehem. The third Omar Yussef Mystery is The Samaritan’s Secret, and The Fourth Assassin takes Omar Yussef to Brooklyn. Each is available as an audiobook too, which I’m ordering today for my iPod to take with me on my treks.

Matt Beynon Rees has also written a nonfiction book that will be my next read, Cain’s Field: Faith, Fraticide and Fear in the Middle East.

In this gripping account of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, award-winning journalist Matt Rees takes us deep within Israeli and Palestinian societies to reveal the fractures at the core of both. While the world focuses almost exclusively on the violent clash between the two camps, Rees exposes the internal rifts that drain each society of its ability to act cohesively. This dazzling, groundbreaking narrative goes behind the familiar moves of the big players to reveal the individuals who are at war not only with the enemy, but also with their own people.

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