When the body of a brutally beaten woman is found on the beach in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Detective Osama Ibrahim dreads investigating another unsolvable murder - chillingly common in a city where the veils of conservative Islam keep women as anonymous in life as the victim is in death.
But Katya, one of the few females in the coroner's office, is determined to identify the woman and find her killer. Aided by her friend Nayir, she soon discovers that the victim was a young, controversial filmmaker named Leila. Was it Leila's connection to an incendiary Koranic scholar or a missing American man that got her killed?
City of Veils combines a suspenseful and tightly woven mystery with an intimate and nuanced portrait of women’s lives in the Middle East.
©2010 Zoe Ferraris (P)2010 Tantor
"Stellar.... A searing portrait of the religious and cultural veils that separate Muslim women from the modern world." (Publishers Weekly)
I really enjoyed Ferraris' earlier book, Finding Nouf, and was intrigued by her characters and her depiction of the Arab world, specifically, the Saudi city of Jedda, a seen through the lens of police investigations into murders. This second outing is just as good. While the policier elements are not novel, the culture clash between the modern secular world and the traditional Muslim world is really interesting, particularly as regards to position of women. We see the main characters (the police, forensic techs, adjuncts) at home as well as at work, and I found myself understanding bits of Islamic culture that were previously quite opaque.
Kate Reading's narration is excellent.
A detective mystery set in Saudi Arabia. Your first thought might be that there is going to be a lot of exposition about Islam and contrasting radical extremists with "good" Muslims, or disquisitions on the status of women in Islam and how much it sucks to be a Saudi woman. While these topics come up (and yes, it does kind of suck to be a Saudi woman), Zoe Ferraris never gets up on a soapbox and neither do her characters. I was skeptical at first, but the writing is plain, straightforward narrative that dips into the minds of a modest cast of characters male and female, American and Saudi, and builds a fairly decent mystery starting with a vanished American ex-pat and a Saudi "Jane Doe" found on a beach in Jeddah.
The Saudi setting is the sweetener in what would otherwise be a competent if unexceptional murder mystery. The victim turns out to have been a young Saudi woman filmmaker who was something of a muckraker, filming scenes from the seamy underbelly of Jeddah, which is sort of the Las Vegas of Saudi Arabia. Unsurprisingly, she pissed a lot of people off, so the police go from one suspect to another. The first police character is a Saudi detective, Osama Ibrahim, who is a fairly modern guy and not at all unpleasant or radical, though he does have a bit of trouble dealing with the poor American woman who is having a great deal of trouble dealing with Saudi Arabia. The other main Saudi character is Katya, a single woman working for the coroner's office. A more cliched story would try to make Osama and Katya star-crossed lovers. Instead, they strike up an awkward partnership/friendship, while trying to negotiate the difficult territory of male/female relationships in such a strict country.
It turns out that the American woman's disappeared husband and the murdered filmmaker are connected. The murderer was not a big surprise, but there were enough twists and secondary discoveries right up until the end to keep the story interesting.
A very enjoyable story that shows Saudi Arabia as a modern country, neither whitewashing its more unsavory aspects nor depicting it as a land of nothing but fundamentalist mullahs, Al Qaeda fanboys and oppressed women. If you like a decent mystery novel with an exotic (for Americans) locale and a nice mix of interesting male and female characters, this is well worth a read.
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since the author lived in saudi arabia, as an american married to a saudi, she has first-hand knowledge of a woman's life there. the novel's view into the intricacies of saudi culture is more compelling than its mystery component. however, the mystery serves as a useful device for the author, as it allows her to unveil more intimate details about saudi culture.
Even though this book is meant as a mystery, I found that I was riveted mostly to the lifestyle description of Saudi's women.
This is simply a great book. Suspenseful all the way. And Kate Reading is one of my favorite readers. She does an excellent job. The suspense build up in this book is fantastic. You litterally cannot stop listening to it. Just when you think you know who the murderer is -- you find out you are wrong.
This is an excellent picture of life in Saudi Arabia and fully illustrates all the problems a woman faces living in that country -- both American and Saudi. It really illustrates the problem Saudi women find in trying to live in the modern world where they are held back due to religious strictures and customs.
In addition to being a great mystery story it also illustrates the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia struggling to come to grips with the modern world -- with some citizens learning to adapt and others not. It also depicts the plight and loneliness of American Woman living in Saudi while their husbands work there. Despite all the luxuries of the American life style replicated in miniature in foreign compounds, American women lead a truly lonely life in this country. This is well illustrated.
One of the things I like is that the author does not merely describe situations she shows them to you in scenes which seem all too real.
This is NOT a book to be missed.
After readin finding Nouf, Ferraris' first book I immediately decided to purchase the City of Veils. Again the characters were well developed and intriging. This book did not fail to deliver. Great mystery and plt. Will wait for the third book with anticipation. For anyone who likes to read a mystery novel the combines a good plot,intriguing characters, a love story and a better understanding of life in Jordan I highly recommend this book.
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