Saturday, February 14, 2009

"The Samaritan's Secret"

Matt Beynon Rees is an award-winning crime novelist who lives in Jerusalem. Major authors have compared his best-selling writing with the work of Graham Greene, John Le Carre, Georges Simenon and Henning Mankell. The French magazine L’Express called him “the Dashiell Hammett of Palestine.”

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, the third Omar Yussef mystery, The Samaritan's Secret, and reported the following:
If you've noticed only one thing about the Palestinians, I'll bet it would be that they don't have much to laugh about. It's true that life is rough in the West Bank and Gaza, but one of the ways I've observed Palestinians cope with the strictures and dangers of their lives is humor. When I first came to Jerusalem 13 years ago, Palestinians had a good line in Yasser Arafat jokes (mostly based around the fact that he wasn't so good-looking.) Their situation has only gotten worse since then, but their humor remains one of their most appealing characteristics.

On Page 69 of my new Palestinian crime novel, The Samaritan's Secret, my detective character Omar Yussef flirts amusingly with his young friend's fiancée and is scolded good-naturedly by his wife.

But the flirting has a serious side, as he mentions that the Prophet Muhammad had more than one wife. Omar, who's almost 60 years old, defends his jesting suggestion that he take a second, younger wife: "The political power of the Islamists is growing…It's important to stay in their good books. If I take a second wife, they'll assume that I'm religious, and I won't even have to pray to prove it."

One of the key themes of the novel is the battle between the Islamists of Hamas and their relatively secular rivals for control over the seething alleys of the casbah in Nablus, the West Bank's most violent town. Omar is commenting on the power of Hamas, which even in the couple of days he has spent in Nablus preparing for his friend's wedding, is evident to him.

Throughout the book, Omar is irascible, humorous and deeply committed to uncovering the truth beneath the political corruption of Palestinian society. In many ways it's his flirtatiousness and openness with women – his wife and his favorite granddaughter in particular – that keeps him from slipping into the macho madness that often grips the people around him.
Visit Matt Beynon Rees' website and blog, and watch The Samaritan's Secret video.

The Page 69 Test: The Collaborator of Bethlehem.

My Book, The Movie: The Collaborator of Bethlehem.

The Page 69 Test: A Grave in Gaza.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue