A serendipitous discovery early in 2010

I was looking for the third book in the Omar Yussef series ever since I read the first two – The Bethlehem Murders which is quite bleak and then its sequel, The Saladin Murders – which is equally dark but has a sort of redmption in the end for most of the main characters… those who remain alive that is.

I have already written about my favourite character from the series to whom I believe I have some resemblance, but I will resist the temptation to digress…. Firmly

And when I came to know that the The Samaritan’s Secret begins with a the weeding of one of the most personable characters of the last one, my fervour went an exponential increase.

Besides the story seemed interesting too…. read a review I found somewhere: 

The chronicle of Omar Yussef Sirhan, Palestinian school master cum detective, continues with the “The Samaritan’s Secret.” Author Matthew Beynon Rees, a British journalist with long experience in the Middle East, has a deep and almost uncanny understanding of Palestine, its people and culture, all of which are well-reflected in this crime novel and the two others in the Omar Yussef series. To his great credit, the evocative descriptions of the West Bank (and Gaza previously) and its people are both “warts and all” and admiring.

“The Samaritan’s Secret” takes Omar Yussef and his family to the northern West Bank town of Nablus for the wedding of a young policeman friend and his fiance, Meimoun (both introduced in the last). The couple’s marriage ceremony coincides with an outbreak of hostilities between Hamas and Fatah militants which provides the dangerous backdrop for the murder mystery that is introduced early in the story.

While Omar Yussef is visiting a shrine of the fast-dwindling Samaritan sect where the theft of sacred religious books has been reported, the body of badly beaten young man is found. The victim turns out to be the adopted son of the chief priest of the Samaritans–a man who is strangely ambivalent about his son’s death and the theft of the religious articles.

The murdered man was also a close confidant of the late PLO Chief, Yasser Arafat, and apparently held the secret to the whereabouts of hundreds of millions of international assistance dollars stashed in overseas banks for Arafat’s personal use. There is a general belief among the Nablus population that the young victim was also gay and may have had relationships with a number of important figures in the Palestinian state. All of this seems to contribute to a violent and extremely dangerous feeding frenzy that threatens Omar Yussef and his friends and family as he attempts to solve the murder of the young Samaritan.

In addition to a clever and every-changing plot line, author Beynon Rees has gone to great and very effective lengths to describe Omar Yussef’s relationships with family and friends. While Omar Yussef represents honour and justice, he is also shown to be a middle-aged man with a lot of physical problems, some the result of an alcoholic and violent past. He and his long-time friend, Bethlehem police chief, Khamis Zeydan, are a sad/funny team of grumpy old men, who persist against the formidable odds to solve what becomes a series of murders, before returning to the scene of the original crime for the final denouement.

This is terrific read with lots of twists and turns and surprises up to the final page. Beynon Rees deserves great credit for presenting his story with authentic sounding, no sugar-coated descriptions of the time, place and people that are the West Bank today.

See…. how could I ever resist?

However, coming back to the main theme. As I visited the bookshop which I weekly frequent (the blessed one in which I had found the initial two books) today, and found a couple of other interesting books, I suddenly remembered Rees and asked one of the staff about it. He recalled something had come and before he could go to look for himself, I beat to the spot, scanned the shelves anxiously and I FOUND IT!!!!!!!!!!!!

I could have danced with joy but somehow, controlled myself. All I can say is that I soooooooo look forward to reaching tonight and beginning it. It will wipe out some of the emptiness I suffered after finishing the Inspector Montalbano series.

However, there is a twist in the tale. I have found out that Beynon Rees has written the fourth part too and it is due to come out next month. But when will be available in this benighted country is what I am concerned with.

But that is a bridge we will cross later………. At least this night will be pleasant.


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