Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A Grave In Gaza by Matt Beynon Rees

First Sentence:
As Omar Yussef came along the passage, the flies left the flooded toilets to examine him.

A Grave in Gaza
by Matt Beynon Rees

Soho Crime, 2008 (ARE)
Crime Fiction (Mystery); 340 pgs

The violence and corruption in Gaza is well known. The struggle for power and control is a never-ending battle, and some of those people in power do not care how they get what they want just as long as they end up on top. Matt Beynon Rees captures all of that in the second novel of his Omar Yussef series, A Grave in Gaza, a suspenseful and emotion-rousing mystery.

Omar Yussef Sirhan is the principal and teacher at a girl's school in Bethlehem. He is visiting Gaza along side his boss, Magnus Wallender, from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, with the intention of inspecting the refugee school in the area. Omar Yussef discovers quickly that Gaza is nothing like his own hometown, with the area’s warring gangs and violence on the streets as well as the political games and maneuvering. Magnus and Omar Yussef are met at the checkpoint by the United Nations Security Officer, James Cree, their designated guide while conducting the inspection. However, their plans are disrupted when a teacher who divides his time between the university and the refugee school is arrested as a collaborator, accused of being a CIA spy. A visit to the teacher's house reveals that he in fact had spoken out against the selling of university diplomas to officers in the Preventative Security in order to help greedy and power hungry officers promote through the ranks quickly. Omar Yussef, a strong believer in standing up for what is right, is drawn immediately to the cause of the teacher, and he becomes determined to help him and his family in any way he can.

Omar Yussef and his counterparts seek answers at the highest levels and are met with resistance at every turn. The stakes are raised even higher when Magnus Wallender is kidnapped by one of the local gangs who is demanding the release of a brother who was arrested for the murder of an intelligence officer. Although Omar Yussef knows very well he is getting in over his head, he cannot let it go. Could the kidnapping of his friend and the arrest of the teacher be connected? It does not appear so on the surface, but Omar is determined to find the thread and pull it with all his might until everything unravels and becomes more clear.

Omar Yussef is an unlikely hero. At fifty-six years old, out of shape, and out of his element, the Palestinian history teacher has the advantage of being an ordinary fellow, which makes him easy to trust, not only by those he meets in the book but by the reader as well. He has integrity and intelligence, which makes him dangerous to those who may be corrupt. What he lacks, Sami Jaffari makes up for: contacts in high places as well as the cunning and skill to survive in such a violent landscape. Sami is a bit of mystery and quite an intriguing character.

Based on real life events, A Grave in Gaza is a frightening and thrilling mystery full of intrigue. Matt Beynon Rees pulls no punches in describing the harshness of life in Gaza, both from the corrupt politicians to the ordinary and decent Palestinians who survive as best they can. It is the author’s portrayal of the ordinary everyday people, those who are easy to overlook amidst so much of which is bad, that offered a softer side of Gaza. They were a reminder of how present and valuable innocence is, that the corrupt leaders and their wars amongst each other are not the wars of the people, who are only looking to live their lives as best they can in peace.

In the middle of a dust storm while searching for the truth to achieve justice, Omar Yussef has so much to lose and yet he continues his efforts because it is the right thing to do. The author has written a provocative and suspenseful novel that is sure to entertain and keep the reader up late into the night. Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at http://www.curledup.com/. © Wendy Runyon, 2008.

Rating: * (Very Good)

For more information about the author, Matt Beynon Rees, and his books, please visit the author's website.


  1. That sounds like a great book. You write such good reviews, I'm tempting to go out this minute and start buying. Bad Wendy. LOL.

  2. Sorry, typo. Should read as "tempted" to go out...

    Is this a sign telling me to go to bed? Hmmm...

  3. Hello!

    You have been tagged. Follow me!


  4. Certainly sounds gripping! Sounds as if this would be worth looking for.

  5. Thanks, Wendy. Does this one work as a standalone or should I seek out the first? - clea

  6. This sounds good. I'll add it to my TBR list. Thanks for the review!!

  7. You know this is going on my list! I haven't read many books set in that part of the world, much less a mystery so this is something I'd like to check out. I'll have to mention it to my mystery book group too!

  8. Great review, Wendy! This book definitely sounds intriguing! Also, I always find it interesting to learn more about other countries' cultures and the people's lifestyle as well.

  9. Alice - Thank you! I struggled a bit with this review because it can be such a charged topic.

    And this is payback for all the books you've tempted me with! ;-)

    Dancin' Fool - That's a tough meme, but it looks like fun. Let me give it some thought. Thanks for the tag!

    Jenclair - It really was quite interesting, and I enjoyed it very much. If you do decide to try it, I hope you enjoy it.

    Clea - It seemed to work well as a standalone. I haven't had a chance to read the first yet myself, but I hope to.

    Samantha - Thanks for visiting! I hope you enjoy it if you do decide to pick it up.

    Iliana - I thought it would be really interesting to read a mystery novel set in Gaza. I've read a few books set in the Middle East, but none really that touch upon the Palestinian people.

    I think it would make a good discussion book. And a fun read. :-)

    Melody - Thanks! I like to learn about other countries and cultures too, especially those I know so little about.

  10. How can you resist a first line with flies coming out of toilets. "With a start like this, it has to be good."

  11. Oh this sounds good. I don't think I've read anything set in Gaza. I'm putting both this one and the first one on my list.

  12. Jeff - The first line is definitely attention grabbing. Thank you so much for stopping by.

    Tanabata - It just dawned on me that I have read a couple of books that took me through Gaza. It's been a while since I read them. How could I forget? I do hope you enjoy the series if you do give it a try.

  13. Another one to look out for. Great review.

  14. Wow! Sounds like a poerful book! The unlikely hero aspect is especially compelling for me. So true to life.

  15. I meant to say powerful book. Sorry it's late!:)

  16. Ew! Kind of gross opening but the book sounds good.

  17. Thanks, Julie!

    Jaimie - I wondered how it would play out from the description of the book and I'm glad to say it worked very well.

    Jen - It doesn't conjure up the prettiest picture, does it? LOL


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