Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Fourth Assassin by Matt Beynon Rees

"Suicide is the entire basis of our politics."

"You're forgetting murder."

"Either way, we always seem to find new ways to destroy each other."


Teachers make a difference.  And culturally-ingrained hatred is among the most destructive hatred of all.  Matt Beynon Rees' The Fourth Assassin left me with those two thoughts.

I am taken by Rees' Omar Yussef books.

In this book, The Fourth Assassin, Omar Yussef finds his son's roommate murdered.  The young man has had his head cut off and taken away.  The space where the head had been is covered with a veil.

It all goes back to the story of the four assassins, a story Yussef had taught his son and his son's three childhood friends in school.

Yussef is not a detective or policeman.  He is the superintendent of a U.N. school in Bethlehem. 

Yussef claims not to be a religious man himself, but he can't keep from being caught up in the historic, cultural, and religious conflicts of the Palestinian people.   And he finds that those conflicts have been transported to New York City.

Yussef is in New York City to give a minor speech at the U.N.  One thing Yussef is looking forward to is visiting his son and two of his son's friends who now share an apartment in New York City.

This book involves Palestinian intrigue, but even more than that, it involves family ties, the bonds between teachers and their students, and the ways in which good teachers change their pupils, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. 

The very nature of the society entraps people to one extent or another, and only a few are able to survive it.

This is an intriguing story with at least three surprise endings.

That bothered me a little, all those surprises at the end, but it may have been because the surprises took some people's lives down paths I didn't want them to take.

And those paths were probably close to being inevitable. Given those people, who they were and how they grew up, they may have had little chance to be something different.

I started reading Rees because I wanted to learn more about Palestine, its traditions and its people.

I do better with my learning by reading mystery stories, not histories, which tend to bore me.

These books have helped me learn a lot.  But again, they are most of all, good stories, some of them a bit better told than others, but all of them fascinating.


Matt Beynon Rees said...

hi Joe, I really appreciate your writing about my book. Your comments about teachers are precisely why I chose to make Omar Yussef a schoolmaster. I'm with you on the history vs/ crime fiction aspect, too. Best, Matt

Joe Barone said...

If you keep writing these stories, I'll keep reading them.