Rummanah Aasi
  After finishing Ferraris's debut novel, Finding Nouf, I wanted to know more about leading detectives Nayir and Katya. I was also interested in learning about the everyday life in Saudi Arabia from an author who personally lived there herself. City of Veils avoids the sophomore slump. In addition to a good mystery, we are also watch the characters grow and get a glimpse of their personal lives.
Description: The body of a young woman is discovered on the grimy sands of Jeddah beach; soon afterwards, a strong-minded American woman finds herself alone and afraid in the most repressive city on earth when her husband suddenly disappears. 
  Investigating police officer Osama Ibrahim, forensic scientist Katya Hijazi and her friend, the strictly devout Bedouin guide Nayir Sharqi join forces to search out the truth in the scorching city streets and the vast, lethal emptiness of the desert beyond.

Review: Ferraris's enjoyable and thought provoking second novel is again set in Saudi Arabia and features the desert guide Nayir Sharqi and forensic scientist Katya Hijazi, introduced in Finding Nouf. While I recommend reading Finding Nouf to get a better understanding of the leading detectives, it is not necessary. City of Veils could be read as a standalone.
 Nayir and Hijazi gingerly probe the death of an unconventional young woman found mutilated and half-nude on a beach near Jeddah. Ferraris takes her time in unraveling the identity of the victim, creating an image of a woman who is far from the stereotype of a Saudi woman: she is loud, flouted religious custom while making provocative films exposing the seamy side of Jeddah and even questioned the purity of the Quran, the Holy Book of Islam. The list of suspects who would harm her grows by the hour.
  While the aspect of questioning the purity of the sacred book was unsettling to me as a Muslim, I can see what the author was trying to do-not impose a religious opinion but rather show the intolerance of critical thinking. I was interested in finding out the "inconsistencies" and though the author refers to certain passages from the Quran, there are no notations of the passages.
  As Nayir and Katya work together, they also stumble upon the disappearance of an American security contractor, who, to the dismay of his American wife, had a "summer marriage" with the victim. Ferraris presents a complicating and at times searing portrait of Saudi Arabia. Though there are many indications of social injustices particularly where women rights are concerned, you can also see the lighter appreciative aspects of the culture as well such as dinner gatherings with friends.
  What draws me deeper into the story isn't necessarily the mystery, which is good, but rather the central characters. Nayir is a a sensitive, but traditional and orthodox Muslim. He battles himself with coming to terms with his own desire to be with Katya. I also find him inching toward realizing that a working relationship requires an equal balance. While independent-minded Katya struggles to establish her own identity as a professional woman and must pretend to be married in order to work as a technician in Jeddah's homicide force. In the Saudi society, women and men can't have any other relationship other than familial or of wife/husband. Katya's boss, Det. Insp. Osama Ibrahim, also goes through a personal change and loses his progressive self-image after he discovers his wife wants a career more than she wants his children.
  Readers looking for something more in their ordinary mysteries should definitely give Ferraris's book a try. The social commentary of the Saudi society, which is much hidden from our eyes, isn't heavy handed but engrossing. I'm also very curious to see if Nayir has the courage to propose to Katya and if she will accept. I look forward to picking up the next book in this series.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Strong violence, most of which takes off the page, and some language. Recommended for teens and adults who enjoy learning about different cultures along with solving a good mystery.

If you like this book try: Kingdom of Strangers by Zoe Ferraris, Collaborator of Bethlehem by Matt Rees
5 Responses
  1. I like the sound of these characters. I also like that it questions things, but I would have loved more information as well. I'm also glad that you can read out of order (not that I do that... *cough*). :) This looks like something different that I would enjoy than my usual fare.

  2. Jenny Says:

    Well now I really want to know if he'll find the courage to propose too! I'll be watching your blog (as if I don't already) for your review of the next book to see if that proposal (and hopefully acceptance!) comes to pass. Thanks for your thoughts on this one Rummanah, it's not something I would normally pick up but I can always count on you to put new and interesting things on my radar:)

  3. This intrigues me because I know so little about the Saudi culture. The violence would bother me but not enough that I wouldn't be willing to give it a go.

  4. We hear a lot about Saudi culture from the news so it's interesting to get a perspective from someone who has actually lived in Saudi Arabia. I like that the social commentary isn't heavy handed in this one.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    This sounds like an engrossing mystery but what really interests me is the chance to get a look at Saudi culture through the eyes of well-drawn characters. I need to read Finding Nouf and City of Veils, and I'm also going to be looking out for your review of the next book to see if Nayir does indeed get up the courage to propose. Lovely review!

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