Book Review: City of Veils

Set in the conservative city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia this complex mystery opens with the discovery of a brutally tortured and murdered young woman washed up on the beach. Detective Osama Ibrahim who is struggling to create a name for himself while coming to terms with his wife’s changing role in a more contemporary society is assigned to the difficult case. Evidence technician Katya yearns to do more within the police department but as a woman, finds herself limited by the constraints of an oppressive society. Although Nayir, a desert guide is attracted to Katya, he has some serious conflicts trying to reconcile his strict traditional upbringing with her nontraditional job and viewpoints. That conflict led Nayir to discontinue their relationship eight months earlier. Now, as a result of the ongoing murder investigation, Katya requests his assistance.

Meanwhile, Miriam an American woman has just returned to Jeddah from a vacation in the states. She fears her husband Eric may decide not to go back to America after his latest assignment and hopes to resurrect their marriage before it’s too late. The only problem is, shortly after her arrival Eric vanishes and as a foreign woman with no male relatives, Miriam quickly discovers just how limited her options are.

These and other subplots are told from the perspectives of the different characters to create a cracking good read with more emphasis on the challenges presented by the changing cultural landscape then the mystery. That isn’t to say the mystery part has been shortchanged because by the conclusion, all the threads have been neatly stitched together. Ferraris does an admirable job of portraying how women are treated in the Muslim world and how the pressures of a changing society are challenging both genders to reexamine their religious translations. This is a well-rounded, thought provoking book that will leave readers wanting more.


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