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City of Veils: A Novel (A Katya Hijazi and Nayir Sharqi Novel) Hardcover – August 9, 2010
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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.
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*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
Top customer reviews
The characters are completely relate-able, despite the fact that they exist in Saudi culture. It's fascinating for a westerner like me to see how many freedoms and opportunities we take for granted (in America) that simply don't exist in the Middle East. That said, there are enlightening cultural moments of understanding, and a realization that some things are in fact similar, if not the same.
In City of Veils we are given a glimpse of what life is like in Jeddah for an American woman. Miriam Walker returns to Jeddah after a trip home and while her husband picks her up at the airport he disappears hours later. Miriam is trapped as she cannot drive a car unaccompanied, she hates wearing a veil and can only explore a small part of the city walking from the apartment she lives in.
In this book we find that Katya has been able to secure a position with the police and longs to be an investigator. The relationship between Nayir and Katya continues in an ever so strained and interesting way. I find myself hoping that they can make the necessary accommodations to their culture to find their way together.
I think mystery fans will be quite pleased with the plot line which is both intriguing and suspenseful.
The mystery - it's well plotted, well integrated into its setting and the characters are well rounded.