'The Fourth Assassin' takes Page 69 Test

The blog empire of the Campaign for the American Reader has as its flagship the Page 69 Test. The premise is this: open any book to page 69; if it grabs you, that's a better indication of whether you'll enjoy the book than simply reading the opening page. Try it on a book you like (and one you don't), it usually is quite reliable. Blogger Marshal Zeringue asked me to submit my new Palestinian crime novel, THE FOURTH ASSASSIN, to the Page 69 Test. Here's his introduction followed by what I wrote for him about page 69 of my new book:

Matt Beynon Rees is the author of the acclaimed series of novels featuring Palestinian detective Omar Yussef: The Collaborator of Bethlehem, which won the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger award, A Grave in Gaza, The Samaritan's Secret, and the newly released The Fourth Assassin.

He applied the Page 69 Test to the new novel and reported the following:

The first three novels in my Palestinian crime series take place in the West Bank and Gaza. All the characters are Palestinian, with the exception of a couple of foreign aid workers. But I want my series to show the full extent of Palestinian life, and half the people in the world who call themselves Palestinian don’t live in Palestine. So my hero Omar Yussef hits the road.

The Fourth Assassin, the new book in my series, takes place in the UN on the east side of Manhattan, and in the section of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, that’s becoming known as “Little Palestine,” as immigrants from the Jerusalem area make it their home.

Page 69 hits the two main topics that make the book compelling.

First, the alienation felt by a foreigner when confronted with the enormity and chaos of New York. I wanted to show how immigrants might turn inward, rejecting the society around them, becoming religious fundamentalists. Here’s the description of a subway ride from Omar’s point of view:

"The train rumbled at low speed onto the strangely terrifying superstructure of the Manhattan Bridge. Downriver, beyond the massive girders and the mesh of electric lines, the Brooklyn Bridge arched over the water. Its famous towers sprayed thick cables along its span. Omar Yussef felt as though he were flying out of control through the air, high above the river and the tangle of highway along the shoreline. An old Vietnamese man screamed into his cell phone over the noise of the train. The wheels rang like the slow beating of a giant steel kettledrum until the train slipped back under the earth, jumped to a different track, and picked up speed. ‘This is an unnatural way of traveling,’ Omar Yussef whispered."

Second, Page 69 contains an important spark for the mystery at the heart of the book. Up to this point, no one but Omar Yussef acknowledges that things seem awry. But now his sidekick, Bethlehem Police Chief Khamis Zeydan, says to him:

"‘My brother, I have a bad feeling about this visit. Some danger that I can’t predict.’"

Now if that doesn’t hook you, nothing will. Read on to page 70, eh?

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