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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Son of Samaritan
As the crime genre expands it is becoming increasingly difficult to bring something fresh to the genre. One obvious way to tackle this issue is to set your book in a unique location with characters not normally seen. This is Matt Rees' plan with his Omar Yussef novels and in this case `The Samaritan's Secret'. Set in Palestine it follows Yussef, a local history...
Published on 4 Feb 2009 by Sam Tyler

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars great lead character, flatish story
The first two books in the Omar Yussef series are great reads, especially The Collaborator of Bethlehem. The stories are well told, multi-layered, had a good balance of back story, history and political context, and evoked a strong sense of place. The Samaritan's Secret, however, seemed quite direct and a little flat in comparison. The narrative jumps right into the story...
Published on 13 May 2012 by Rob Kitchin


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Son of Samaritan, 4 Feb 2009
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This review is from: The Samaritan's Secret (Omar Yussef Mystery 3) (Paperback)
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As the crime genre expands it is becoming increasingly difficult to bring something fresh to the genre. One obvious way to tackle this issue is to set your book in a unique location with characters not normally seen. This is Matt Rees' plan with his Omar Yussef novels and in this case `The Samaritan's Secret'. Set in Palestine it follows Yussef, a local history teacher, who becomes involved in crimes that are routed in the regions rich past. This time a young Samaritan man has been killed and Yussef has been asked to help his friend Sami, a policeman, investigate the killing as the Samaritans are an unknown religious element even in the religious and political hotspot of Palestine.

In terms of location Rees has written a very interesting book. He balances perfectly the description needed to explain Palestine alongside a generic crime story. Having a central hero as a historian allows Rees the excuse to have someone qualified to talk about the past and in context. As a new and interesting setting `Secret' is on to a winner. I loved the aggressive way that the character's interacted; Yussef often would say inflammatory things to get a reaction, even from his friends. However, such is the nature of Palestine in the book that people are used to this as a form of communication and do not hold grudges.

The flaws in the book are due to the crime story itself and how it unravels. I was able to follow the story until about half way and then it started to become slightly confused. Too many twists and turns made it lose its way, and this was not aided by Rees insistence to have Yussef's life threatened every 50 pages or so. Any self aware history teacher would run away! Overall, I liked the book due mainly for its setting, as a crime book alone, it was average.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Casbah crime spree, 3 May 2009
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Ed.F "edz314" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Samaritan's Secret (Omar Yussef Mystery 3) (Paperback)
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`The Samaritan's Secret' starts slowly, perhaps as a result of having to familiarse the reader with a culture, location, and a formalized style of language which they may not have encountered before. The characters frequently use Islamic greetings, naming conventions and formal titles to address each other, but as someone with very little knowledge of Palestine, I still managed to engage with this novel pretty quickly, and even felt proud of myself for having `learnt something new'.

Our hero - middle-aged, nosey, erudite and sentimental amateur detective Omar Yussef - takes it upon himself to almost single handedly solve not only at least two murders, but Palestine's economic and social problems, in the space of a week. This makes for a ripping yarn, with some pertinent political comment, but not a very complex mystery.

Occasionally the narrative veers dangerously close to parody - "... the sheik turned an imperiously immobile fact toward him. He had a frown like a thousand fatwas". Other characters treat the main protagonist, rather conveniently, as a confessor, and I found the character of `Jaime' to be particularly insipid and was disappointed to find that we were, after all, always meant to take her at face value. The `macguffin' of the `qanafi' desert was stretched to its limits and used to explain behaviour that Yussef, or anyone else with half a brain, would never have normally demonstrated.

However, for its educational value and a good attempt to transplant a detective story to an exotic setting, I can recommend this novel as something new for crime fiction fans.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars great lead character, flatish story, 13 May 2012
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Rob Kitchin - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Samaritan's Secret (Omar Yussef Mystery 3) (Paperback)
The first two books in the Omar Yussef series are great reads, especially The Collaborator of Bethlehem. The stories are well told, multi-layered, had a good balance of back story, history and political context, and evoked a strong sense of place. The Samaritan's Secret, however, seemed quite direct and a little flat in comparison. The narrative jumps right into the story and then runs at a steady pace. The plot idea is strong, but the telling lacks some of the craft of the first two books. I also felt the story suffered from a couple of credibility issues. The story works on Omar Yussef being embedded in certain networks (which is fine), but too many times I kept asking myself why all the various actors, from all sides, were prepared to confide in him. Yes, he's a genial character, but he's also a stranger to many characters and conspiracies work on secrets. I therefore found it difficult to believe that he could so quickly and effectively work his way to the centre of the action. That all said, the concept is good and it's an entertaining read. I think part of the issue is that the first two books are so good that Rees has set himself a very high bar to reach in subsequent outings. This is always going to be a challenge. In Omar Yussef, Rees has created a great character and I'm looking forward to the fourth outing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Murder in Nablus, 15 July 2009
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Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Samaritan's Secret (Omar Yussef Mystery 3) (Paperback)
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The Samaritan's Secret, Matt Rees third thriller about Palestinian academic Omar Yussef who gets involved in solving various killings in the modern-day West Bank, sees the teacher in Nablus for a family wedding only to become involved in the sidelines of the murder of a Samaritan financial expert being reluctantly investigated by the prospective groom. As is the rule in such thrillers, the case turns out to be more complicated than it first appears, with an abundance of possible motives, from stolen religious manuscripts, blackmail, homosexuality, files spilling the dirt on many of the region's most prominent figures and a fortune salted away in secret accounts by the `old man' (Arafat) before he died. Yussef, paunchy, past his prime and almost bemused by the futility and madness around him, is an engaging guide and it's a fairly intriguing mystery.

As a former political journalist Rees is excellent on the background, creating a vividly realised world of factions and putting it into an emotional as well as political context, but never allowing it to completely overshadow the story in the way that many writers who become overenamored of their research can be prone to. Instead he brings it into the foreground, making it a part of the characters that helps explain not only who they are but also why they do what they do without slipping into simplistic good guy/bad guy clichés. There's a good sense of the way that violence can erupt, often for petty political point scoring, and he's adept at throwing in the odd unexpectedly convincing human moment when it does, such as Yussef's realisation during one chase that's he's completely forgotten the person who was with him only moments before because his survival instinct has taken over.

It's not without its problems, most notably the attempt to add a ticking clock in the form of a World Bank threat to withdraw all funding from the region if at least a few hundred million worth of embezzled aid isn't located. Far from giving greater importance to the investigation, it acts more as a distraction, partially because the World Bank official tracking it down is by far the novel's least convincing character. But the novel is strong enough for that not to be a fatal flaw, and, not being overly reliant on its two predecessors, works very well as a standalone mystery. Hopefully there'll be many more Yussef mysteries in the future to look forward to.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The not so Good Samaritan, 24 Dec 2008
By 
Michael Watson "skirrow22" (Halifax, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Samaritan's Secret (Omar Yussef Mystery 3) (Paperback)
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Since Poirot and Maigret disappeared from the 'new books' shelf, there was something of a hiatus for books featuring a 'foreign' detective. Then, thanks, I suppose to TV, along come Inspector Montalbano and, of course, Kurt Hollander. Others, too, from France and Turkey appear and now we have a Palistinian detective, more in the mould of Miss Marple than, say, Philip Marlowe (of whom the detective's thirteen-year old granddaughter is a big fan) but, in the persona of Omar Yussef, we have a real success story.

Actually, this is the third book to feature him by Matt Rees. One certainly doesn't need to have read the earlier books but I suppose it may help with some of the nuances in this story.

Stolen ancient Scrolls, overseas bank accounts, missing multi-millions of dollars and, naturally, murder all claim the attention of the history teacher-turned-detective.

Rees sets his story in Nablus where, above the town, is the final settlement of the Samaritans who, being neither Jew nor Arab face a dwindling population which by the end of the book has reduced even more. That a body turns up at their Temple where Abraham was supposed to have prepared Isaac for sacrifice only serves to bring Yussef and his not very friendly friends into play.

I loved the depiction of the inhabitants of Nablus, the in-fighting between Hamas and Fatah and, of course, the references to the much reviled - or much reverred - Arafat. None of this is heavy work. On the contrary, we move through the casbah with its scents, smells and a myriad of people as though we'd been living there ourselves. Yussef is a granddad so no major heroics here; just a charm, a wit and a knowledge of his people, mainly disdainful, it seems and death is never far away - in fact, almost too close to home for comfort.

And, to confuse matters more, his friend, the Chief of Police has a secret which brings into conflict the same characters who are responsible for the murders and the torture of the ungrateful people of Nablus.

An excellent book, filled with detail and understanding that makes you just want to keep turning the page, if only to see what Yussef stumbles - literally - upon this time.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A different kind of detective, 5 Mar 2009
By 
Andy Edwards "staxasoul" (Essex UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Samaritan's Secret (Omar Yussef Mystery 3) (Paperback)
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If you have read much detective fiction, you'll know the form they take. In order to set yourself apart as a writer in this genre, your central character needs to be a little different and it helps if you have something to say along the way.

Matt Rees uses his experience as a journalist in the Middle East to create a different setting for his story, both in terms of geography and culture, with Omar Youseff, his central character sufficiently troubled and vulnerable to make him interesting.

As a result, the investigation, while not especially complicated, will hold your attention. If you are unfamiliar with the Middle East, as I am, there are a few confusing aspects, (2 names for the same person for instance), but once you get used to it, the plot rattles along. It seldom felt predictable, due to the unfamiliar setting, and there were some real insights into the complexities of life among the Palestinians, which only added to my enjoyment.

If you are looking for something which twists an overcrowded genre, then this could be it - I liked it
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual location key to success, 4 Jan 2009
By 
Elizabeth Taylor (France) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Samaritan's Secret (Omar Yussef Mystery 3) (Paperback)
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This is an unusual detective story as its set in a location which is more interesting than the crime itself, that place being Nablus in the West Bank - seen on a rather depressingly regular basis on our TV Screens. As a result I enjoyed the insight into living in Palestine more than the detective story itself which was rather confusing.

The detective of our novel is a school teacher who is not actually tasked with solving the central crime, so this means we get little understanding of the workings of the Palestinian police system - this also means that the way in which the detective piece evolves is therefore rather haphazard and relies on the reader engaging with our central character - Omar Yussef. However, luckily for the author we do get on his side as he's 60 something, not very fit, does not take himself too seriously and, has rather liberal attitudes to the situation in the Middle East which will of course be more appealing to the western reader.

The crime starts with the death of a Samaritan which appears to be linked to some ancient/sacred texts and the crime which opens our eyes to the Samaritans which most of us only know from the story in the bible - also highlights the fact that this is as much a political novel as a detective one. The investigation itself is rather rambling and quite hard to follow at times, partly as there are many names to keep track of and sometimes two different names for the same person. That shouldn't however put you off as I found the whole book interesting mainly for its setting although I did wonder at times what a Palestinian would think as the writer is clearly western despite his extensive knowledge - but that just makes it thought provoking.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Inspector Cetin Ikmen, 6 Feb 2009
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Dr. Robert A. Josey "mystery lover" (Scottish Highlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Samaritan's Secret (Omar Yussef Mystery 3) (Paperback)
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Reading this novel I had a pleasant sense of deja vu. I really like Barbara Nadel's crime thrillers set in Istanbul and starring Inspector Cetin Ikmen. So the story here featuring the character Omar Yussef brought the same sense of an exotic but dangerous location; much (inter)cultural sleuthing; and a finely convoluted plot.

Nadel's plots often go a little hay-wire at the end but her books are so enjoyable anyway that this is easy to forgive. The same seems to have happened here. Rees' plot starts strangling itself in the last third of the text. But the incidental details and the sense of being immersed in an alien world make up for this defect.

'The Samaritan's Secret' is an enjoyable, stimulating crime novel.(Though what Yussef has to do with Morse and Rebus - from the reviews on the back cover - is beyond me?) But I would urge anyone who liked this to look out for Barbara Nadels' work. It is well worth investigating.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and Enlightening, 5 Mar 2009
By 
D. Elliott (Ulverston, Cumbria) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Samaritan's Secret (Omar Yussef Mystery 3) (Paperback)
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Publicity blurb accompanying `The Samaritan's Secret' refers to its principal `hero' detective, Omar Yussef, as another Morse or Rebus - but he is more of a Miss Marple - a likeable amateur detective - yet the book's plot is not nearly as clever as an Agatha Christie crime thriller. Rather than well constructed resolution of riddles the `unexpected' too often depends on bizarre past relationships between characters. The various protagonists divulge information and clues too readily to liberal history teacher Omar Yussef, rendering the narrative over-easy to follow as a single sequence of often predictable events.

The strength of `The Samaritan's Secret' derives from its setting in Nablus. This is more than place descriptions and examples of customs, language etc. - it is the many insights to Palestinian problems - mainly as internal polarity between Islamic Hamas and Fatah governance but also with references to Israel - and of course the dwindling Samaritan people and their culture. Revelations to a variety of schisms in a part of the world left in a time warp of religious conflict, tribal aggression and shifting allegiances add a serious overlay to the reader's entertaining enjoyment of the `detective' genre. Rights and wrongs are not always defined but commentary on bribery and corruption, political intrigue, cultural conflicts, family feuds etc. is interwoven throughout. `The Samaritan's Secret' is an enlightening social and political statement as well as a congenial crime novel.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A world away, 5 Feb 2009
This review is from: The Samaritan's Secret (Omar Yussef Mystery 3) (Paperback)
This is Rees' third Yussef novel and the action has moved now to Nablus, a hotbed of Hamas.

I echo the comments of another reviewer who said it would be intersting to hear a Palestinian review this - for Rees paints again a bleak picture of life in Nablus (as he did previously with Bethlehem and Gaza).

It takes a while for the story to pick up, only in the last third did I feel the story had pace as the mystery deepened. Still, a novel set in Nablus, dealing with Hamas, Fatah, Islam, sexuality, Middle East customs, a woman's place, Samaritan's and their lot, has got to be worth a read.

Start with the Bethlehem Murders first though - it's the pick of the three and is the first novel.
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The Samaritan's Secret (Omar Yussef Mystery 3)
The Samaritan's Secret (Omar Yussef Mystery 3) by Matt Rees (Paperback - 1 Jan 2009)
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