The Collaborator of Bethlehem, Part II
He is Omar Yussef, the schoolteacher protagonist of The Collaborator of Bethlehem (a.k.a. The Bethlehem Murders) by Matt Beynon Rees (a.k.a. Matt Rees). Or perhaps the line between amateur and professional is meaningless in an infernal world such as Yussef's, where the distinctions between law, terror, honor, corruption and revenge have just about evaporated. To avoid plot spoilers, I won't discuss his mistakes – or his right guesses, for that matter – except to say that even the wildest among them is, sadly, plausible.
Yussef is a Muslim; the friend and former pupil whose life he fights to save is a Christian. Hamas and Fatah are both mentioned, but clan alliances and rivalries and good, old-fashioned greed figure far more prominently. Israeli tanks make one fearsome appearance, but the Palestinians of this Bethlehem do too good a job destroying themselves to need much help from anyone else.
Yussef, the good guy, wins in a sense – Soho Press is about to publish the second novel in the series, so I'm giving away nothing if I say that Yussef does not die. But his triumph is partial. Still, its particular nature (again, I'll give no spoilers) adds to the attraction of this good, flawed, dogged and enormously appealing protagonist.
© Peter Rozovsky 2008
Matt Beynon Rees