The Samaritan's Secret
Review: In Nablus, the West Bank, to attend the wedding of a close friend, teacher and historian Omar Yussef finds himself in the midst of a dangerous murder investigation in The Samaritan's Secret, the third mystery in this series by Matt Beynon Rees.
Invited by his friend, Sami Jaffari, to accompany him on a routine police matter, Omar Yussef is also present when the body of a young man is found. Brutally beaten to death, the victim, Ishaq, was the son of a Samaritan priest; coincidentally the same priest Sami Jaffari and Omar Yussef had been visiting to discuss a stolen sacred scroll. Omar Yussef learns Ishaq was a close associate of the former president of Palestine and in charge of managing the vast sums of money that were in hidden accounts around the world. A World Bank representative, in Nablus searching for $300 million that is still missing following the death of the president, had been scheduled to meet with Ishaq. But with his death, and the dead end that results in the search for the money, the World Bank has no choice but to cut off all aid to the Palestinian people. The police seem uninterested, or fearful, to pursue the murder investigation, leaving Omar Yussef determined to discover the truth.
The Samaritan's Secret is another exceptional entry in this series, not quite as sharply written as its predecessor, but outstanding nonetheless. Omar Yussef tends to waver between two objectives here, resolving the murder of Ishaq and not allowing the World Bank to cut off support of his people. The two would seem to be related, but given the time frame involved, just 3 days, he realizes he may have to compromise one investigation to complete the other. This time element adds a subtle, yet incessant, tension to the story. It also means Omar Yussef initially overlooks some of the obvious, but highly improbable, solutions to the murder mystery in favor of the more expedient, if less practical, ones. Sharp-eyed readers will no doubt pick up on the identity of Ishaq's killer and the motive behind it early on, but it's easy to see how Omar Yussef, with the lack of a single purpose, misses all the clues laid out before him.
Given the setting, politics and conflict, not unexpectedly, play a significant role in The Samaritan's Secret. The politics of inclusion and exclusion, half-truths and outright lies, honor and deception, are evident on nearly every page. And the conflict between the various Palestinian factions, Islamic purists and realists, the absurdly rich and the desperately poor, and of course within families, drive much of the plot. All this is wrapped in a dark, at times claustrophobic, environment accompanied by the sights, smells, and sounds of what is to many a forbidding, if not forbidden, place.
The intricate plot, memorable characters, expressive narrative, and relentless pacing will no doubt cause The Samaritan's Secret to be remembered as one of the best mysteries of the year.
Acknowledgment: Soho Press provided a copy of The Samaritan's Secret for this review.
Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
A Grave in Gaza
Soho Crime (Hardcover), February 2008
ISBN-13: 9781569474723; ISBN-10: 1569474729
The Fourth Assassin
Soho Crime (Hardcover), February 2010
ISBN-13: 9781569476192; ISBN-10: 1569476195
Location(s) referenced in The Samaritan's Secret: West Bank, Israel
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The Samaritan's Secret by Matt Beynon Rees — An Omar Yussef Mystery
Publisher: Soho Crime
Publication Date: February 2009
List Price: $24.00
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Page Author: Lance Wright
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