The Fourth Assassin: An Omar Yussef Mystery
by Matt Beynon Rees
Review by Mel Jacob
Soho Crime Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781569476192
Date: 01 February 2010 List Price $24.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
In his fourth Omar Yussef mystery, aptly titled The Fourth Assassin, Matt Beynon Rees brings Palestinian teacher and scholar Omar Yussef Sirhan to a U.N. conference in New York. He is anxious to visit his son Ala who migrated to New York. When he reaches his son Ala's apartment in Little Palestine, he stumbles on a headless corpse he at first believes is Ala. Stunned by grief, he calls the police. When Ala arrives, he identifies the corpse from its clothing as one of his two roommates. The police suspect Ala of the murder.
The three friends and one other young man, students of Omar, were known as the Assassins after a historical cult about which he taught them. Of the four young men, three are now roommates, but the fourth has diverged and now works with Syrian delegation participating in the U.N. conference. The police believe the murder is a case of friends falling out over the affections of a young woman. Then drugs enter the picture.
When the police arrest Ala, Omar decides he must find the killer. However, that makes him a target and several attempts are made on his life. Dogged persistence reveals aspects of the three friends Omar hadn't known. They had changed much since he had had them as eager young students. He also learns his son and one roommate both courted the same woman.
Politics, drugs, and money complicate the case. Immigrants bring all the old rivalries to the U.S. Hope and a belief in the innate goodness of human nature compels Omar to solve the murder, but a much larger plot complicates his efforts.
Omar must also contend with a minor Palestinian official who is determined to disgrace him and to ultimately have him dismissed from his post. In Omar's view, the pontificating by most delegates at the U.N. conference does little to solve the real problems he and his colleagues face in trying to educate Palestinian children.
Rees does an excellent job of showing the pressures on the young Palestinians and describing the microcosm of one immigrant community within the U.S. The mystery also contains plenty of twist and turns.