Saturday, November 08, 2008
A Grave in Gaza, Matt Beynon Rees
A schoolteacher in Bethlehem turns amateur detective, his daughter designs a website for his new trade, and family is the overriding value system--all that sounds like the foundation of a cozy mystery series. But Matt Beynon Rees's series featuring Omar Yussef Sirhan is set in Palestine, and there's enough intrigue, crime, gangsterism, infighting (not to mention the occupation) to fill dozens of noir crime novels. In the second book in the series, A Grave in Gaza, Omar Yussef enters Graham Greene territory (but bleaker): sent to the Gaza strip to inspect U.N. schools there, he becomes involved in a sequence of murder, torture, kidnapping, and misery that is not for the fainthearted reader. The plot is not tightly constructed, because there are too many villains and the corruption is too pervasive for a single, linear plot. There is instead a moving evocation, from a Palestinian teacher's point of view, of the grim realities in one of the most dangerous places on earth. There is, however, a neat twist at the end that not only draws together the various threads of the plot but also makes a human statement at odds with all the inhumane activity that has gone before.