Book: The Saladin Murders

The Saladin Murders (Omar Yussef Mystery Series)The Saladin Murders by Matt Rees

Frankly I found this a very depressing read, and knowing that reality probably mirrors this fictitious tale in many of its grisly dimensions was very bitter to contemplate.

This is the second Omar Yussef mystery and it plays out in Gaza, a dump in every sense of the word according to the protagonists. The dirt, the sandstorms, the corruption, the religious zealotry, the garbage, the ruins, and so many deaths and corpses are the order of the day in that terrible place.

Omar Yussef comes to Gaza as part of a UN group. He is investigating with his UN boss the arrest of a colleague who is also a part time lecturer at Al-Azhar University. This innocuous beginning quickly spirals into something sinister as one UN man gets kidnapped and another is assasinated. Soon the corpses pile up among Palestinians rival factions from one killing to another revenge. I lost track of the motives, the agendas and the rivalries. What is left is the deep sense of futility as corrupt politicians fight it out and squabble over this pile of garbage that is Gaza. In this story Israeli violence and hostility do not exist; it is all about Palestinian internal strife. The violence between rival factions is extreme and almost mindless, and the distasteful part is that you cannot even dismiss LAW wielding fighters as far-fetched. Just because the events take place in Gaza, the craziest and the most mindless violence is possible.

A woman in the story says: “Sometimes I think that the only Palestinians who do not weep are the dead ones”.

I was saddened by a little boy, who showed Omar Yussef the doves he is raising on the roof, an innocent child who would soon be struck by tragedy and grief. Nobody remains innocent for long in this environment. Yet people laugh and joke, they exchange wisecracks in the face of death and enjoy a distinct gallows humor, which rang very true. Those Palestinians are tough, and they can put up with a lot of suffering. Omar Yussef says: “I am Palestinian” by way of explanation of his tough nature and tolerance of hardship, but even he was pleased to leave the dust of Gaza, its graves and graveyards behind.

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