Time correspondent Rees (Cain’s Field: Faith, Fratricide, and Fear in the Middle East, not reviewed) poses an absurd but thoroughly logical question in this first of a series: What opportunities do the strife-torn Palestinian Territories offer for detective work?
One of the principal pleasures of Omar Yussef Sirhan’s life is keeping up with his former students from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency Girls School. Less than a day after Omar Yussef, a Palestinian Christian who stopped believing in God long before he stopped drinking, shares coffee with George Saba, a former pupil now selling antiques in Beit Jala, George is arrested on suspicion of having set up Louai Abdel Rahman, the bridegroom of another of Omar Yussef’s old pupils, to be murdered by the Israelis. George’s 15-minute trial and death sentence takes place with shocking dispatch, but not before someone kills his wife. Omar’s old friend Khamis Zeydan, Bethlehem police chief, assumes that her death is an unrelated sex crime. So Omar Yussef, desperate to prove George’s innocence before he can be executed, takes to the mean streets—and are they ever mean. The local chapter of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is so consumed by fear, loathing and internal power struggles that they’re willing to do anything to destroy the collaborator and protect their own reputation.
In a city already divided by hatred, Omar Yussef’s sleuthing is bound to be anticlimactic. But no one will forget his violent world.