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City of Veils: A Novel (A Katya Hijazi and Nayir Sharqi Novel) Hardcover – August 9, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 158 customer reviews

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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.
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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

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Product Details

  • Series: A Katya Hijazi and Nayir Sharqi Novel
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (August 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780316074278
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316074278
  • ASIN: 0316074276
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #623,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Daffy Du VINE VOICE on 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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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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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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Format: Hardcover
Zoe Ferraris's second novel, City of Veils, is a follow-up to her debut, Finding Nouf. A literary mystery set in Saudi Arabia, City of Veils is a different kind of suspense thriller. Among the cloaked town, hidden in the desert or behind a burqa, a killer has taken the life of a woman whose body washes onto the beach. Badly burned, beaten, and stabbed, the investigation into her murder involves more than one detective and citizen of Jeddah. Pushing the boundaries of expectations, both religious and legal, Ferraris's characters delve into the mystery of the woman's death with the hopes of bringing her killer to justice.

My favorite thing about this novel was the fact that it was set in Saudi Arabia. An unlikely place to serve as the backdrop for a thriller, my interest in Ferraris was piqued and I looked on her website and checked out some interviews to discover she once lived in the town of Jeddah, and has first-hand experience of the area and the people who live there. It gave her writing an authentic voice, and though it's hard for me to imagine the rigid expectations women face in Saudi Arabia, I know from her background that what Ferraris writes under the guise of a fiction thriller, can and does occur outside the cover of a book.

Aside from the location and the language placing this novel in a foreign setting, Ferraris's writing was natural and her plot was intriguing. I didn't know going into it that this was a follow-up novel, but I didn't feel disconnected, or as though I missed too much of the background story. Some of the past events were explained, so I understood why Nayir and Katya had a tortured history.

I enjoyed the murder-mystery and suspense value in City of Veils.
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