Palestinian mysteries

Palestinian mystery novels by Matt Rees


Award-winning Omar Yussef mysteries


Matt’s award-winning Palestinian mysteries are published in 26 languages. The first one won a UK Crime Writers Association dagger. Praised by The New York Times and by Middle Eastern writers and leaders, the hero is Omar Yussef, a teacher and unlikely sleuth in Bethlehem, Gaza, Nablus and New York City


“Matt Rees has given us an incredible tapestry” BBC Front Row

“Omar Yussef is a splendid creation.” – Colin Dexter, author of the Inspector Morse novels


The first Omar Yussef mystery

Winner CWA John Creasey Dagger. Nominee: Quill Best Mystery, Barry First Novel, Macavity First Novel, Prix des Lecteurs.
Get the US edition, or the UK edition. Download the book from Get the UK audiobook on CD.

For decades, Omar Yussef has taught history to the children of Bethlehem. When a favorite former pupil, George Saba, is arrested for collaborating with the Israelis in the killing of a Palestinian guerrilla, Omar is convinced that he has been framed. With George facing imminent execution Omar sets out to prove his innocence. His classroom is bombed and members of his family are threatened. But with no one else willing to stand up for the truth, it’s up to Omar to act, even as bloodshed and heartbreak surround him.


All it takes is one good man — a detective, of course — to humanize events that confound understanding. In THE COLLABORATOR OF BETHLEHEM, an astonishing first novel by Matt Beynon Rees, the former Jerusalem bureau chief for Time magazine, that honorable man is Omar Yussef, a middle-aged history teacher at a United Nations-run school for Palestinian children outside Bethlehem. Setting a mystery in the epicenter of a war zone challenges the genre conventions, but it doesn’t change the rules. In fact, it clarifies the role of the detective as the voice of reason, crying to be heard above the cacophony of gun-barrel politics. — New York Times Book Review

Rees tells this grim story with skill, specificity and richly detailed descriptions of people and places. Here, for example, is the terrified judge who presides over Saba’s sham trial: “He was a portly man with skin the color and softness of coffee cake and gray hair that puffed high and back like a French crooner. His mouth was set and angry, but his eyes shifted with fear.” — Washington Post

The Collaborator of Bethlehem is the best — and the rarest — sort of mystery: exciting and compelling, but it is also a deeply moving story that will, for many readers, shed much needed light on conditions in the Palestinian territories. Matt Beynon Rees’s ability to blend the political and emotional is reminiscent of Graham Greene. — David Liss, author of The Ethical Assassin.



The second Omar Yussef mystery

Get the US edition, or the UK edition. Download it from Get the UK audiobook on CD.

It is a blistering morning in Gaza, as Omar Yussef struggles along the uneven streets to carry out a school inspection. When he learns that a fellow teacher has been jailed for alleged links to the CIA, his suspicions are aroused. The more Omar investigates the arrest, the murkier his search for the truth becomes. With the police, the military and Gaza’s most powerful gangs all out to silence him, Omar must face the terrifying realization that he’s no longer fighting to save his colleague – but himself.


A frightening and mighty thriller about an infamous corner of reality which still burns as I write this. – Politiken, Denmark

Rees has created a stunning sense of place and memorable characters for his impassioned story. – The Sunday Telegraph

In its vivid portrayal of the violence and degradation of the Palestinian enclave of Gaza, Matt Rees’s second book, “The Saladin Murders”, is outstanding. — The Economist

Omar Yussef returns. Here is the Hercule Poirot of the Near East immersed in the Gaza Strip. With this second volume in the Omar saga, Matt Rees confirms his mastery of the genre. We await the third with impatience. Insh’allah! — Le Figaro

If Simenon gives you canal-side France and Henning Mankell a desolating Sweden, then Rees wants you to experience the West Bank in all its complexity and despair. – Sir David Hare, in The Guardian

Rees combines solid mystery plotting with a literary novelist’s emphasis on character and the small human dramas that happen within the broader sociopoltical landscape. And, unlike many crime writers, he writes with great power, style, and emotion. — Bill Ott, Booklist




The third Omar Yussef mystery

Best Mystery Book of the Year: Deadly Pleasures magazine
Get the book in the UK and in the US. Download it from

A member of the tiny but ancient Samaritan community who controlled hundreds of millions of dollars of government money has been murdered. Omar Yussef must find the missing money before all international aid to the Palestinians is cut off. When Omar Yussef travels to Nablus, the West Bank’s most violent town, to attend a wedding he little expects the trouble that awaits him. An ancient Torah scroll belonging to the Samaritan’s descendants of the biblical Joseph, has been stolen. The dead body of a young Samaritan discovered and the theft takes an unexpected turn. Omar is driven into the murky alleys and tunnels of the old casbah, where he uncovers a violent rift between the government and Hamas militants, the secret deals of a rich businessman, and the shadowy world of the tiny Samaritan community. 


“Provocative and humane.” – The New York Times Book Review

Omar Yussef is the most unlikely detective in modern whodunnits. He does not study fingerprints, collect physical evidence or check alibis…He believes that one must intervene in the present to shape history. — Nthabisang Moreosele in The Sowetan

A wonderful detective thriller … in which Arafat’s late life and death lurk as vivid presence and macabre ghost. — Marty Peretz, The New Republic

The depth and heart in Omar Yussef’s third case makes it a tearjerker as well as a page-turner. – Kirkus Reviews




The fourth Omar Yussef mystery

Get the US edition or the UK edition . Download the audio book.

When Omar Yussef, a Palestinian schoolteacher, travels to New York for a UN Conference, he’s eager to visit his youngest son Ala, who lives in Bay Ridge, a Brooklyn neighborhood with a large Palestinian community. He finds a headless corpse in his son’s room. When the cops show up Ala refuses to give an alibi and is arrested. Desperate to prove his son’s innocence, Omar Yussef delves deeper, uncovering a deadly international conspiracy.


Engrossing – The New York Times

One of the most beguiling of current sleuths – The Sunday Times

This is classic work that will stand up 20 or 30 years from now when you (maybe) and I (almost certainly) are gone, and the problems that currently exist will still remain. Brilliantly conceived and beautifully written, THE FOURTH ASSASSIN is strongly recommended. – Bookreporter

The Thriller Checklist from Matt Rees

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