The Collaborator of Bethlehem – Review

The Collaborator of Bethlehem: An Omar Yussef Mystery (Mariner Books, 2008) by Matt Beynon Rees combines the traditional murder mystery with cultural anthropology to form a new genre: the ethnographic murder mystery.

While hairs stand up on readers’ arms as middle school history teacher cum detective Omar Yussef examines cadavers and parleys with machine-gun toting Palestinian liberation fighters in the West Bank, readers learn cultural tidbits that include:

· How Arab parents name themselves after their first born son
· How to be hospitable in Arab culture, including the different ways to drink coffee
· How students address and behave towards teachers
· How household decorating differs between Arab Christians and Muslims

Shards of culture like these reflect the efforts of West Bank citizens of all faiths to maintain civility in a society where guns rule and civilians do not have the right to bear arms. In this setting, Omar Yussef attempts to save a former student from murder charges. The justice system that Yussef encounters may infuriate readers yet justice à la West Bank does prevail in The Collaborator of Bethlehem.

Please join us Sunday, October 3, 2010 at noon EST (New York Time) for the Murder Mysteries in Foreign Lands on the Culture w/Ruth  Paget program with guest J. Sydney Jones, author of Requiem in Vienna and the Empty Mirror murder mysteries.This review originally appeared on Ruth Paget’s blog Belle Vie Reviews and More