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City of Veils: A Novel (A Katya Hijazi and Nayir Sharqi Novel) [Kindle Edition]

Zoë Ferraris
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (148 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Women in Saudi Arabia are expected to lead quiet lives circumscribed by Islamic law and tradition. But Katya, one of the few women in the medical examiner's office, is determined to make her work mean something.

When the body of a brutally beaten woman is found on the beach in Jeddah, the city's detectives are ready to dismiss the case as 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. If this is another housemaid killed by her employer, finding the culprit will be all but impossible.

Only Katya is convinced that the victim can be identified and her killer found. She calls upon her friend Nayir for help, and soon discovers that the dead girl was a young filmmaker named Leila, whose controversial documentaries earned her many enemies.

With only the woman's clandestine footage as a guide, Katya and Nayir must confront the dark side of Jeddah that Leila struggled to expose: an underworld of prostitution, violence, exploitation, and jealously guarded secrets. Along the way, they form an unlikely alliance with an American woman whose husband has disappeared. Their growing search takes them from the city's car-clogged streets to the deadly vastness of the desert beyond.

In CITY OF VEILS, award-winning author Zoë Ferraris combines a thrilling, fast-paced mystery with a rare and intimate look into women's lives in the Middle East.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Ferraris's stellar second novel is again set in Saudi Arabia and features the desert guide Nayir Sharqi and forensic scientist Katya Hijazi, introduced in Finding Nouf. Nayir and Hijazi gingerly probe the death of an unconventional young woman found mutilated and half-nude on a beach near Jeddah, as well as the disappearance of an American security contractor, who, to the dismay of his American wife, had a "summer marriage" with the victim. Nayir, a sensitive but orthodox Muslim, inches toward realizing that when a woman is cloistered, a man's duties to her multiply a dozenfold, while independent-minded Katya, whom he loves, pretends to be married in order to work as a technician in Jeddah's homicide force. Katya's boss, Det. Insp. Osama Ibrahim, also loses his progressive self-image after he discovers his wife wants a career more than she wants his children. The author, who lived for a time in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s with her then husband, presents a searing portrait of the religious and cultural veils that separate Muslim women from the modern world.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Leila Nawar was a promising young Saudi Arabian filmmaker who preferred controversy to commercial success. Detective Osama Ibrahim suspects it was this penchant for prickly material that brought about her brutal end. He also knows that investigating any woman’s death is a challenge in a land where women walk the streets with their faces veiled. But Katya, a forensic technician in the coroner’s office, is determined not to let Leila’s beating and murder go unsolved. With the help of her friend, Nayir, Katya discovers dark truths about Leila: ever the provocateur, she interviewed prostitutes and became involved in a project aimed at exposing impurities in the Koran. When Leila is linked to a missing American man, Detective Ibrahim makes the case a top priority. (As a Muslim, he’s uncomfortable working with women, but he can’t deny the headway Katya has made on the case.) American novelist Ferraris (Finding Nouf, 2008) lived in Saudi Arabia with her then husband and his extended family of Saudi-Palestinian Bedouins in the wake of the first Gulf War. Here she renders a suspenseful mystery and a sobering portrait of the lives of Muslim women. Recommend this potent thriller as book-club reading. --Allison Block

Product Details

  • File Size: 1370 KB
  • Print Length: 411 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (July 24, 2010)
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003JTHXO0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,943 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
68 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First rate! July 18, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I ordered this book kind of on impulse. I love Scandinavian mysteries, but am less enamored of more conventional ones. City of Veils, however, set in Saudi Arabia and dealing with women's issues, promised to be interesting at least, particularly because the cover copy promised insights into the lives of women in a culture Westerners like me know little about.

As it happened, the book was way more than merely interesting. It was gripping--one of those books that caused me to blow off plans in order to keep reading. There were times when I stayed up way too late because I couldn't put it down. The main characters are three-dimensional, and the world they inhabit is well-drawn--a much-needed counterbalance to the paranoid universe Americans currently inhabit with respect to Muslims. The author, Zoe Ferraris, lived in Saudi Arabia and clearly knows whereof she writes.

The plot is fast-paced but never rushed, and mostly believable, though there were a few coincidences that seemed a bit of a stretch (at least one of which would cause me to give away some of the plot if I were to reveal it here). And naturally, the rescue of the protagonists in their moment of greatest need came just in the nick of time. None were enough for me to take away a star, however. Ferraris is an accomplished writer with a true understanding of Saudi culture and human nature and has produced a fascinating, entertaining read.

Five stars, unequivocally.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent July 14, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
When the badly beaten and burned body of a young woman washes up on shore near Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Inspector Osama Ibrahim doesn't hold out much hope for finding her killer. Aided by Katya, an ambitious lab tech, however, he discovers the identity of the victim and begins investigating her life and death. Katya is a bright young woman who follows oblique clues and assists Osama in the field, as well as enlisting the help of an old friend, Nayir. She had not spoken to Nayir in some time, but both find that the feelings they have for one another are still very much alive. Their romance becomes more complicated, though, when they meet a lonely American woman in need of help when her husband goes missing.

I acquired this book because I was interested in seeing how a murder mystery would unfold in Saudi Arabian culture, and was greatly rewarded. Not only is the mystery here intriguing, but the culture in which the story unfolds is riveting reading, as well. Almost everyone has heard horror stories of how women are treated in Saudi Arabia, but this novel goes beyond stereotypes and focuses on realistic characters. We see Saudi culture from several angles: the devout Muslim man determined to follow religious law while wrestling with his feelings for a woman, a more progressive man who seems determined to ignore old-fashioned practices, an American man bewitched by the place, a young Saudi woman comfortable in her role while still feeling its restrictions, and a lonely American woman attempting to find her way in an unfamiliar land. I found these insights fascinating, and appreciated the author's ability to show us a slice of a very different culture without passing judgments on it.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes a good, gripping mystery with a rich back story, and can't wait to read other books by this author.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great beginning but grew implausible October 21, 2010
By Joanna
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I loved the beginning of this novel and was very taken by the premise, the setting, and the atmosphere. The dilemma of a Western woman and of women in general in a restrictive, misogynistic-seeming Arab culture was both fascinating and frightening to me. The writing was also evocative and compelling, much more skillfully crafted than most mystery thrillers. Unfortunately, as I kept reading, I grew less involved in the story because it was beginning to seem a less plausible and reliable depiction. Some parts actually confused me or were unclear, where as others became too repetitive and almost didactic, continually mentioning the veils women characters had to wear and their repressed position in society. Although I was sympathetic to the point of view and appalled by many of the social injustices, something about the artistic rendering did not ring entirely true, and I felt I was getting a somewhat skewed or biased perspective instead of a more fully rounded and richly nuanced one. The central romantic relationship between the two detective characters never entirely resonated with me, and the narrative drive of the mystery began to flag. It was still a better than average read but not the consistently insightful portrait of another culture or the can't put-it-down suspense novel I hoped it would be.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating - A Great Read - With Minor Caveats July 12, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book is very well written.

I was captivated by the characters almost immediately and read the entire book in 24 hours because I literally couldn't put it down. The characters are amazingly complex and well developed. I was drawn into their story almost immediately.

The plot moves along at a fast pace and it is a very interesting premise. The author has written a basic murder mystery but sets it in Saudi Arabia. This book is both a good read and a cultural education all in one. I thought it was fascinating.

I liked that the author used the different characters and their unique perspectives to explore and explain Muslim Belief and Culture, at least as it exists in Saudi Arabia. She includes characters who are devout Muslims, characters who are more relaxed in their belief, characters who don't really practice their faith at all, and even characters who are anti-Muslim. It made for a very educational and thought provoking read.

Over all I thought this was a great book.

There were a couple of negatives for me however.

This book seems to support the idea that Islam is detrimental to women; that at the very core it is abusive to women. This is definitely not a "pro-Islam" book. It would have been more balanced to hear from a female Muslim character who DID love and practice her faith devoutly. There are many Muslim women who do love their faith and who do not feel that their faith diminishes or oppresses them [whether we agree with them or not]. I thought the author's bias came through very clearly on this issue [that Islam is anti-woman]. I can understand the criticism she has taken from Muslim readers [in looking at reviews on her first book].
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The author did a good job of introducing the reader to some of the ...
The author did a good job of introducing the reader to some of the cultural aspects of Saudi Arabian culture through the context of a mystery. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Constance J. Coquillette
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, but Factual Errors
I enjoyed the book and it was a good mystery novel.I also think that in general it was a fairly accurate portrayal of modern Saudi life (to the best of my knowledge, never having... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Molly
5.0 out of 5 stars Very well-written
Excellent mystery. Also, I learned a great deal about social customs in Saudi Arabia of which I didn't have an understanding before I read Ferraris' book. Read more
Published 6 months ago by N. Hoites
5.0 out of 5 stars Ferraris' City of Veils
I am dazzled by yet another Ferraris stunner! My book group first read Kingdom of Strangers and I was hooked. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Sue Bowden
5.0 out of 5 stars Could not put it down
Zoe Ferraris just keeps getting better and better. Tighter and more skillfully plotted than Finding Nouf, this is not only a fascinating look at a culture very different from our... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Kyra Collins
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Using a murder mystery as a vehicle for giving wonderful, fascinating insight into life in Saudi Arabia, this book was also a great character study and interesting
Published 7 months ago by Edith Sullivan
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful Book; Good Mystery
Unlike some of the other reviewers who thought the book was unfairly biased in its portrayal of life in Saudi Arabia, I found the book to be balanced. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Animal Lover
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
I love zoe Ferraris's writing and this was a terrific book.
Published 9 months ago by Suej
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay.
I liked the mystery of it and that the good guys won. I hated the brutality and the horrible treatment of woman in this day and age.
Published 10 months ago by Little lady me
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and informative
Enjoyable reading. I learned a lot about the culture. The plot flowed well. The characters were well developed and believable.
Published 10 months ago by Vivian Partin
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