Death in Saudi Arabia

It's always a delight when you open a new book, of which you have no great expectations, only to discover that it's a great read and, even better, it's part of a series - so there are more delights in store. This was my experience with Zoe Ferraris' crime novel City of veils.

Set, unusually, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the novel opens with the discovery of a woman's body on the beach; while the police struggle to unravel the crime, an American woman, Miriam Walker, is also in difficulties when her husband mysteriously disappears. The conservative Muslim, Nayir, is drawn into helping her by his love-interest Katya, an independent minded woman, who challenges Nayir's conventions, as does her boss, the detective, Osama. Gradually the two independent strands move together at the same time revealing a Saudi Arabia that is more liberal than many Westerners imagine, but also every bit as conservative as is commonly believed.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It was a cracking crime novel, one of the best I've read recently. The setting was exotic, believable, and challenged my own perceptions of the desert kingdom. Ferraris is clearly a desert lover, and her settings are beautifully described. It was on occasions a little unbelievable, and, I think, the character of Katya is perhaps rather more liberal than she would be in reality - and can you really fit a camel in a Land Rover? (Certainly no Jordanian camel that I ever saw would fit). But apart from these minor carps, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

It was also good to read a novel in which Islam was treated sympathetically, and not just the prerogative of those with evil intent. There are good Muslim characters, and bad Muslim characters - just as with any religion.

City of veils is the second in a series featuring Nayir and Katya. I hope for many more.


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