on June 23, 2013
Of the three mystery novels that I read by Zoe Ferraris which follow the paths of the same police inspector Ibrahim Zahrani and a forensic scientist Katya Hijazi, I found this novel to be her best. It describes the setting and culture in such detail without being tedious, bringing back vivid memories for me, who has lived in that culture. I recommend it highly as it allows readers to get an insight into a culture that many Westerners do not understand very well, but should study more. What better way than to do it in an entertaining way.
Book 2 in the Katya Hijazi series
'City of Veils' is a modern crime fiction that provides a unique insight into the minds of men highly influenced by their religious upbringing and customs. As a reader from the West, it is an intriguing and shocking glimpse into a life where men and women contribute in a totally different manner in day to day survival. The scorching sands of Saudi Arabia provide the backdrop in this fast-paced and compelling story. The exciting plotting with its many twists and turns and well-drawn characters are what make this exceptional novel what it is.
The author has weaved seamlessly three threads together to create a sizzling thriller; it begins with the discovery of a mutilated body of a young woman on a beach. Detective Inspector Osama Ibrahim of the Jeddah Police and female officer Faiza start the investigation and are later join by Katya to interview female witnesses. Katya is very ambitious and her drive will push her too independently research the murder with the help of her trusted friend, Nayir. Another thread has Eric Walker, an American, disappearing under strange circumstances, his wife Mariam seeks help from the American consulate but is disappointed in their lack of results and eventually turns to Nayir and Katya. The author also skilfully develops the personal side of the main characters, Osama who is totally smitten by his wife is in for a rude awakening and Nayir struggles with his principals and feelings towards Katya as their attraction to each other becomes stronger'.
This is a great sequel to 'Finding Nouf', time well spent between the pages.
Set in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah, this novel opens with the discovery of a brutally tortured and murdered young woman whose body has been found on the beach. Detective Osama Ibrahim is assigned this case. Can the case be solved? So many murders of women are unsolvable in a city where the veils guarantee anonymity. And if this proves to be another murdered housemaid, then finding the culprit is likely to be impossible.
Women in Saudi Arabia are expected to live quiet lives within the boundaries of Islamic law and tradition. Yet there are some women, such as Katya who works in the medical examiner's office, who are determined to be more independent. Katya is convinced that the victim can be identified, and her killer identified and found. With the help of her friend Nayir, Katya discovers that the dead girl was a young woman named Leila.
Meanwhile, Miriam Walker (an American woman) has just returned to Jeddah after a holiday in the USA. Her husband Eric has a job in Jeddah and she is becoming concerned that he may wish to stay in Saudi Arabia. Shortly after her return, Eric vanishes. While trying to find out what has happened to Eric, Miriam discovers how difficult it is for a woman without male relatives to exist in this conservative Islamic city.
Katya's search for Leila's murderer and Miriam's search for her husband intersect, and solving the two mysteries makes for an interesting read. The story is told from the perspectives of a number of different characters and this provides different insights into the cultural aspects of life in Jeddah. In some ways, this was more intriguing than the crime-solving. The setting and the characters make this story interesting.
Imagine trying to identify a murder victim where her face and her hands have been systematically destroyed. Then by luck you discover a photo of her in her possessions, only to realize that because of her religious practices her face would be virtually un-recognized by anyone outside her immediate family, which you haven't yet identified.
This is the starting point for Zoe Ferraris's new novel. Set in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Detective Osama Ibrahim faces just these barriers or you could call them challenges.With the assistance of Katya Hijazi, from the coroners office, and her friend(?) Nayir Sharqi, he wades through social and religious customs to identify the victim and find her murdered.
This is a world that I have had no exposure to, other than a Canadian sitcom called Little Mosque on the Prairie. I was intrigued. How were Osama and Katya going to solve this mystery and how were they going to work together when they are not related and Katya is not supposed to talk to a non-family male. How was Katya going to deal with her male office mates. How would Osama interview women surrounding this investigation. Every page of this novel revealed issues that each of the characters had to weigh their understanding of their religion and how it would impinge on them, their families, their co-workers and those who they had to interview. Ms. Ferraris did a wonderful job of portraying these dilemmas and the seriousness with which each character dealt with them.
Excellent mystery and wonderful handling of the topic (seclusion of Muslim women). Some of the same characters in this story are also found in Zoe's earlier book Finding Nouf.