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Cain's Field: Faith, Fratricide, and Fear in the Middle East Hardcover – November 2, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this original and compelling work, Time magazine Jerusalem bureau chief Rees explores the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the perspective of the internal divisions within each society, encapsulating them within lives they have affected. In exploring the origins of the Islamic movement Hamas and its competition with secular nationalist groups for the hearts and minds of the Palestinians, Rees talks to the family of a Palestinian killed by fellow Arabs on orders of the Palestinian Authority. He probes the conflicting loyalties of an Israeli-Arab politician fighting for equality in the Jewish state. On the Israeli-Jewish side, Rees interviews a psychiatrist treating elderly Holocaust survivors who had been mistreated by a Zionist establishment ashamed of their "weakness" in the face of oppression. He also profiles the ultra-Orthodox, anti-Zionist Neturei Karta movement and its open hostility to the Israeli state. Throughout these vignettes, Rees provides insight into the role that art and artists can play in humanizing the conflict, and does not allow the brutal nature of the conflict to blind him to the dark humor of both peoples. His deep sympathy for both sides infuses his book with real vitality.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Matt Rees is the Jerusalem bureau chief for Time magazine. In 2003 he won a Henry Luce Award for Reporting for his coverage of the battle in Jenin during the current intifada. He has also written for Men's Journal, Newsweek, The Scotsman, and The Jerusalem Post. He lives in Jerusalem.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (November 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743250478
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743250474
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,990,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I'm an award-winning British crime novelist. Major authors have compared my writing with the work of Graham Greene, John Le Carre, Georges Simenon and Henning Mankell. French magazine L'Express calls me "the Dashiell Hammett of Palestine." Read more about my books, hear my podcasts and see extra features at mattrees.net.

My first book was non-fiction about the Middle East, where I live. When that was done, I was looking for my next project and came up with the idea for Omar Yussef, my Palestinian sleuth, while chatting with my wife in our favorite hotel in Rome. I realized I had become friends with many colorful Palestinians who'd given me insights into the dark side of their society. Like the former Mister Palestine (he dead-lifts 900 pounds), a one-time bodyguard to Yasser Arafat (skilled in torture), and a delightful fellow who was a hitman for Arafat during the 1980s. To tell the true-life stories I'd amassed over a decade, I decided to channel the reporting into a crime series. After all, Palestine's reality is no romance novel.

THE NOVELS: My latest one is MOZART'S LAST ARIA, a historical thriller set in Vienna in 1791. The main character is Wolfgang Mozart's sister Nannerl, who investigates the great composer's death. It's based on my own love for Mozart's music, my fascination with his often-forgotten, talented sister, and my reading of recent historical research which shows that Wolfgang may well have died suspiciously. It's out in the UK in May and in the US in November. I learned piano so I could write about the Maestro's music. For my next book, which is based on the life of Italian artist Caravaggio, I'm learning to paint with oils and duel with a seventeenth-century rapier.

The first novel in The Palestine Quartet, The Collaborator of Bethlehem (UK title The Bethlehem Murders), was published in February 2007 by Soho Press. In the UK it won the prestigious Crime Writers Association John Creasey Dagger in 2008, and was nominated in the US for the Barry First Novel Award, the Macavity First Mystery Award, and the Quill Best Mystery Award. In France it's been shortlisted for the Prix des Lecteurs. New York Times reviewer Marilyn Stasio called it "an astonishing first novel." It was named one of the Top 10 Mysteries of the Year by Booklist and, in the UK Sir David Hare made it his Book of the Year in The Guardian.

Colin Dexter, author of the Inspector Morse novels, called Omar Yussef "a splendid creation." Omar was called "Philip Marlowe fed on hummus" by one reviewer and "Yasser Arafat meets Miss Marple" by another.

The second book in the series, A Grave in Gaza, appeared in February 2008 (and at the same time under the title The Saladin Murders in the UK). The Bookseller calls it "a cracking, atmospheric read." I put in elements of the plot relating to British military cemeteries in Gaza in homage to my two great uncles, who rode through there with the Imperial Camel Corps in 1917. One of them, Uncle Dai Beynon, was still around when I was a boy, and I was named after him.

The third book in the series, The Samaritan's Secret, was published in February 2009. The New York Times said it was "provocative" and it had great reviews in places I'd not have expected - The Sowetan, the newspaper of that S. African township, for example.

THE FOURTH ASSASSIN, the fourth novel in The Palestine Quartet, was published in February 2010. In it, Omar visits the famous Palestinian town of Brooklyn, New York (there really is a growing community there in Bay Ridge), and finds a dead body in his son's bed...

AROUND THE WORLD: My books have to leading publishers in 24 countries: the U.S., France, Italy, Britain, Poland, Spain, Germany, Holland, Israel, Portugal, Brazil, Norway, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Romania, Sweden, Iceland, Chile, Venezuela, Japan, Indonesia, Greece, Turkey, and South Korea.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Michael Brochstein on December 31, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I had considered myself well read about the Israeli/Arab conflict in general and then I heard Matt Rees speak two months ago about this new book. He told me quite a few things I never knew before (mostly about the Palestinians). I bought his book on the spot and don't regret it. He is a good story teller and delves into issues and people that I don't read about in both the general and special interest media that covers this part of the world. I now have a better understanding about the issues that each side deals with internally (and especially about the Palestinian side).

Highly Recommended!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Judith F. Brilliant on December 11, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I have a deep interest and knowledge of Israel and I am not interested in reading repitious material, of which there is so much. However, "Cain's Field" is original. The first time I went to Israel, I read several books in advance, and in one, every person interviewed had a story. There were compelling stories of their backgrounds and how they got to Israel. "Cain's Field" was, for me, a continuation, a weaving together of stories of people of different backgrounds, each story wrapped up with the story of the country, young people figuring out where they fit into this world, the land of conflicts. The book is full of good drama, meticulously researched, shows authority and sensitivity. Most of all it is excellent reporting and not judgmental. It is fair and balanced and gives everyone equal time, four chapters each. I found the stories penetrating and provocative and Rees seems to have an understanding of the colliding cultures not available to ordinary readers and newscasters. I recommend "Cain's Field", it will entice you, pull you in during the first chapter with the intrigues of conflicts and betrayals. I could not put it down and read it in three sittings! Good gift idea!
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Judith Wolfson on December 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book is a real eye-opener. It takes readers behind the repetitive and often misleading headlines of Middle East reporting into the human heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict. It's a place where most journalists out there seem never to reach. Rees introduces us to a broad and fascinating cast of real-life characters, who are portrayed in skillfull detail.

I learned more from this book than years of "blow-by-blow" news reports on the intifada. It stands head and shoulders above other journalists' accounts of the intifada, which I have found predictable and superficial. From Cain's Field I finally have some understanding of life in Bethlehem and Gaza, and a real sense of what's been going on out there for the past few years. Perhaps even more crucially, Rees gives us a warts-and-all insight into the internal conflicts which have created the internal divisions within Palestinian and Israeli society, fueling the current conflict.

I left this book with only one question - how come most of the journalists covering the Middle East conflict never told us about all this stuff?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sojourner on August 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Matt Rees is to be commended for arriving at an understanding of the Arabs of Israel, a people he respects and sympathizes with, without pandering to them.

His understanding of the Arab culture is deep and well researched. It is amazing to read a man who truly understands the nuances of Moslem-Palestinian society. A must read for all interested in developing a better understanding of the region. The book is at times painful and disturbing. For weeks I could not sleep at night when my thoughts turned to it. Yet, I am grateful to Matt Rees for opening that culture to me. I have since read other works by him, this time in the form of fiction and media articles.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Joseph Kennet on September 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Matt Rees, a long time Jerusalem bureau chief for TIME, has an intimate knowledge of both the palestinian and the israeli scene.
His report is fair and full of insight.
Although I have spent many years in the area, the book has taught me more than I could ever have found out by myself.
It gave me a better understanding of what lies behind the headlines.
It is also well written and reads like a thriller.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Neal Reynolds VINE VOICE on March 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I've read two of the Omar Yussef mysteries now, and having thoroughly enjoyed them and becoming interested in the background, I sought out the author's first book, a rewarding non-fiction account of the conflicts in the middle East, especially those inner conflicts that pit Palestinian against Palestinian and Israeli against Israeli. The true stories recounted here are echoed in his later fiction, and in fact add a lot of understanding to the novels. Most highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By K. Ray on December 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was excellent. It delineated the various ingredients in the frictions between the Jews and Palestinians in Israel. I was very impressed with the non partiality of the author and the clarity of his examples. This was a very valuable contribution to Israeli studies.
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