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Murder at the Arabian Nights: A Belly Dance Mystery (The Belly Dance Mysteries) (Volume 1) Paperback – February 24, 2014
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"Many kudos for creating an authentic background setting. Those unfamiliar with Belly Dance will be able to get glimpses behind the veil so to speak. Those familiar will feel at home." - The Belly Dance Chronicles
"This book is definitely a fun read, and I look forward to the others in this series." -Zaghareet! Magazine, May/June 2014 issue
From the Back Cover
At the Arabian Nights Bellydance Festival, murder takes Center Stage...When lifelong friends Ginger and Susan took their first bellydance class on a dare, they never dreamed they'd end up performing in public--let alone getting mixed up in murder!
Now a famous dancer has been stabbed to death with her own sword, and the police believe a good friend of theirs is guilty of the crime.
As they go behind the scenes of the off-beat world of bellydance, they discover that beauty and glamour can hide some very dirty secrets. What they don't know is that they are up against a killer who is playing for extremely high stakes, and who won't hesitate to strike again!
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Murder at the Arabian Nights: A Belly Dance Mystery
by Rebecca Wolf-Nail
I finished this book almost two weeks ago, but just didn't seem to be able to sit down and write a review. As I've been involved in belly dance for 40 years, I really wanted to love this book. And, for the most part I did. But there were parts of it that left me a bit conflicted. I was struggling with whether to give it 3 or 4 stars and decided, that if for no other reason, I wanted to give it the fourth star just because it was so thoroughly a belly dance book. There aren't many of those out there.
But besides that there were other things I liked about this book.
First and foremost for me is always the grammar, spelling, proofreading and editing. This book got very good marks in this department. I won't say I didn't find a couple of things, but too few to mention. I love it when I'm not stopping to figure out what the author actually meant, or wondering about spelling or syntax. I want to just read and jump mentally into the storyline and that was definitely what could happen here.
Second, Wolf-Nail's characterizations were wonderful. She did a great job of making you like who you should like and dislike who you should dislike, all while leaving enough space to let you suspect everyone. You cared about the characters and wanted to see issues resolved in their favor.
Third, the pacing and plot development are well done (even if the central event took a while to appear!). The flow of the book kept me reading, and resenting the times I had to put the book down to attend to other responsibilities. Wolf-Nail's writing style is easy-going and allows the reader to feel a part of the action.
Fourth, on just a belly dance level, it was so much fun to experience the joy of newbie dancers, as well as to recognize situations, feelings and issues that I have experienced myself during my involvement in the dance.
So what didn't I like? Well, I'm not sure saying I didn't like something is completely accurate, however there were 3 things that I wondered about.
First, almost the first half of the book leads up to the "mystery." The event that kicks off the central mystery of the book doesn't occur until about 40% into the book on my Kindle. I guess I'm used to the central event occurring earlier and I kept wondering what the mystery was going to be, although I was certain I knew which character would be at the center of it.
Second, much of the earlier part of the book seemed to me to be overly full of belly dance explanations. I loved that, being involved in the dance, but I'm not sure readers who aren't familiar with the many variations of belly dance would really be that interested. I know when I read Dick Francis mysteries, I'm less interested in the details of horse breeding, racing, etc. than I am with the motivations and emotions involved in the mystery. My opinion, I'm sure others might think differently.
Last, one of the belly dance variations Wolf-Nail spends a lot of time explaining is tribal style. Almost to the point of where it seemed she was defending the style. It was so pervasive that I really felt there would be a tribal style dancer or two who were inextricably involved in the coming mystery (the main characters were all cabaret, or nightclub style dancers), and that all that time spent on historical ties and evolution of the style would be necessary to understanding the mystery. No tribal dancers were ever involved in the actual storyline, and that left me feeling a little bewildered. And that, and that alone, is why I gave it 4 instead of 5 stars.
It was a well plotted, fun read. I think anyone with a tie to belly dance would thoroughly enjoy it, and I think others would also find it an entertaining way to spend their time.
The mystery aspect was your typical who-done-it scheme with plenty of potential suspects. Although I'm usually quite good at unraveling plots in advance of their conclusion, I was not able to predict the actual motives for the murder so I consider the mystery element well thought of.
The character's are fun & colorful! Lots of personality development went into story. Susan reminded me a great deal of my own best friend & I laughed out loud often while reading. The husbands in the book made for an amusing side-mystery as well. My favorite character however was Banshee the cat!
The novel was an awesome read, overall & I highly recommend it to bellydancers & mystery enthusiasts alike. In fact, I'd recommend this book to anyone who is curious about bellydance in general as you stand to learn allot about the lifestyle from this novel. My only issue with this book was the price...$7.50 for a kindle book which is only a touch over 200 pages is a bit high. Nonetheless, it was well-written & very entertaining & I'd truly love to see this author write more bellydance themed novels. I'm certain they'd be well-received.
This book was really entertaining and it's clear the author is very knowledgeable about bellydance history and culture. It definitely captures the bright eyed and bushy tailed enthusiasm that dancers have in their first few years, and sprinkles a ton of more advanced bellydance knowledge (i.e. origin of cane dance, working with live drummers, etc.) without hitting you over the head with it. I liked the characters (especially the bromance of the two main characters' husbands) and while some of the support characters are a bit one dimensional it really fit with the light, chatty tone of the writing.
The murder doesn't take place as early in the book as I was expecting and the beginning seemed to drag on a bit with the events leading up to the murder, but after it happens I had no idea which character(or characters? ;) Who knows!) was the murderer and it was fun to sit back and watch the two main characters try to sleuth it out. There were a few spelling and grammar errors I noticed- maybe five or so in the entire book so not a big deal.
If you're a bellydancer that also likes mysteries this book is great. I'm looking forward to reading the next one!