A Grave in Gaza – Book Review

The horrific and grisly crimes that Matt Beynon Rees describes in A Grave in Gaza may leave readers liking this second book of the Omar Yussef mystery series without enjoying the carnage found in morgues and in front of tourist hotels in the Gaza Strip.

School teacher, now principal, Omar Yussef returns in A Grave in Gaza to do a routine school inspection in the Gaza Strip with Magnus Wallender, a Swedish United Nations (U.N.) Relief and Works Agency official in contemporary times. Upon arrival in Gaza, they attempt to free an imprisoned school and university professor. Yussef and Wallender’s attempt to save this colleague sets off a chain reaction of interlocking deaths and deals that leave Yussef forever changed.

When Wallender is kidnapped, Yussef discovers how lawless the Gaza Strip can be as each group and gang accuses the other of kidnapping Wallender for different reasons. No one seems particularly eager to save Wallender except Yussef. One Arab young man in A Grave in Gaza describes U.N. officials in the following way: “We’re better off without them. These people think they have all the answers, but they don’t know how to listen. They’re useless to us.”

Rees underscores this young man’s sentiments as he describes U.N. officials being ignorant of the Arabic language and customs and gagging on hummus.

Wallender’s statement at one point in the book may reflect how readers feel about the Middle East region as well after finishing A Grave in Gaza: “…people from the West, like me, have a very simplistic view of what’s right and wrong here in the Middle East.”

Far from asking readers of A Grave in Gaza to give up on the Middle East, Matt Beynon Rees appears to challenge readers to wise up and listen to citizens of the Middle East, who are seeking to maintain and establish law-abiding societies.

(Matt Rees will be the guest on Culture with Ruth Paget on Sunday, October 10, 2010 on http://www.blogtalkradio.com/ ‘s Asnycnow Radio 3 channel at noon EST (New York Time) with podcast to follow.  The topic of the program will be Cultures of the Middle East.)