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City of Veils by Zoë Ferraris
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Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
I almost put down City of Veils after reading the first 100 fair-trial pages that I try to give any novel. That despite a jacket blurb calling it the "Muslim Da Vinci Code," which, in my opinion, serves as negative advertising. However, the novel came to my rescue on a bad night when I needed a non-demanding read to take my mind off things. Pedestrian, and then predictable, plotting is coupled with mostly thin characterizations (in particular, some potentially interesting secondary characters who are summarily dismissed as if the author just realized she had too many balls in the air). Ferris lived for a while in Saudi Arabia, so I am guessing that her depiction of Saudi social mores, male/female relations and her characters' struggles with issues of adherence to religious prescriptions and proscriptions is at least passably accurate. As Saudi Arabia is considered by many Westerners (and others too perhaps) to be one of the most, if not the most, conservative (and restrictive for women) countries in the world, it is this aspect of Ferris's novel that best held my attention. ( )
  Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |
Second book in the adventures of Nayir and Katya. An even more vicious murder with a twisty turny plot that was lots of fun to unravel. ( )
  nbermudez | Dec 17, 2012 |
Zoe Ferraris’ City of Veils is a typical murder mystery with a twist. The twist, in this case, is not sudden or shocking but rather a fundamental element of the story, as the twist is mentioned in the synopsis - empowered women in a traditional Islamic society. Reading about Katya’s and Leila’s trials as a women under Islamic law and tradition is just as interesting, if not more so, than the mystery itself.

City of Veils is the second book in a series, something that may not be apparent at first glance as there is very little that would provide a clue to a reader. While the story itself is a stand-alone story, there are enough references to the previous story for a reader to understand that one is missing some character development from that first novel. It is not enough to completely detract from one’s enjoyment of the current novel, but it is enough to raise a few questions as to what one might have missed.

In a world where ongoing conflicts between Islamic and western countries continue to make headline news, one cannot help but feel that City of Veils adds fuel to an already very hot fire. Ms. Ferraris’ personal opinion of Muslim laws is uncomfortably obvious, and her negative attitude permeates the entire novel. Much is made of the restrictions – physical and emotional - of burqas, niqabs, and hijabs, as well as the subtle humiliations from other gender laws. All it does is create a vision of a country/region which is unfriendly towards Western women and downright archaic towards its own female inhabitants.

Without the cultural differences and clarifications that occur throughout the novel, the mystery in City of Veils is rather bland. The list of suspects is obvious, given Western understanding of male and female roles under Islamic law, whereas the perpetrator does nothing but confirm that understanding. The subplot of the novel is revolutionary in its ideas, but the main character of the subplot feels more like a stand-in for Ms. Ferraris as this character does little more than appear to espouse her beliefs.

The lone bright spot, indeed the lone item of apparent authenticity, is the internal confusion within each of the characters as they struggle to adapt to a society in flux. Western influence in traditionally Islamic regions has to be great, exciting some citizens and horrifying others. The cast of characters within City of Veils cross the entire spectrum of belief and adherence to tradition. It is this dichotomy which truly gives the story life and believability.

Behind its intriguing premise, City of Veils fails to do little more than confirm long-standing opinions that divide the Western world from Islamic countries. The murder mystery takes a backseat to the ongoing clash between two very different ideologies. Even though there are elements of brilliance in showing the variety of opinions and faithfulness to traditional laws, the entire novel is too just too negative overall. One wishes that such a novel, with characters who are obviously trying to find the right balance of tradition and evolution for themselves, would not have fallen prey to portraying Islamic countries so adversely.

Acknowledgments: Thank you to Hachette Books for my review copy!
  jmchshannon | Nov 28, 2012 |
Nearly as good as book one.

As with the first book, The Night of the Mi'raj (also titled Finding Nouf), the strengths of this book lay in the complex problems caused by women's position in Saudi society. Imagine trying to solve a serious crime where the victim is a female, but men and women cannot interact without the presence of a male family member.

The book opens with a brutally murdered young Saudi woman, dragged from the sea. She is unrecognisable - her face and fingerprints have been burned off with acid. If she is just another housemaid, there is little chance that the murder will be solved, but Katya happens upon some identification which turns the tables.
Katya is an independant young woman who we met in the first book. She works in the medical examiner's office and although she does cover herself up, she is less constrained by rules and determined to have a career of her own. Her boss, Detective Inspector Osama Ibrahim, respects her determination and finds her invaluable in bridging the gap bewteeen his male staff and females who need to be questioned.

Meanwhile, an American, Miriam Walker, returns from vacation in the States, to her husband Eric. He meets her from the plane, goes out for takeaway and disappears. She struggles to be taken seriously - perhaps he has just gone away for a few days? - perhaps he has another woman? - Nothing to worry about.

The two cases gradually appear to intersect, aided by Nayir, a desert guide. He has feelings for Katya, though he can't express them. How do men and women ever meet, we wonder? Nayir was also in the first book, where his character was a little more convincing. Here he is used more as a policemen and that didn't feel quite right.

I listened to the unabridged audio version of this book, but unfortunately my listening was spread over about a month. Perhaps this was why I didn't feel that the who-done-it aspect of the novel was particularly strong. Or maybe it was the over-use of coincidences. For me, the book is a great reflection of the problems caused by the restrictions of Saudi culture, rather than a crime novel, which was secondary.

This week I begin Kingdom of Strangers for a book group. Others have already spoken enthusiastically about it and I am looking forward to a good read. ( )
  DubaiReader | Oct 7, 2012 |
I really liked this story set in Jeddah.It tells well from "Katya 's view,what goes on in Saudia Arabia,the women,their males that keep the women "in their place" the religous police,and the every day rules for everything to do with a Saudi woman,Add to this a murder,and Katya,who works in the medical examiner's office,and she works with a detective,together they work this murder of an American who was filming about the Saudi woman/for the local tv stations.The snigglet I give here does not even touch on the great story this is,this story has alot to offer,I so totally enjoyed it,I have to go Back,and read Nouf. ( )
  claudiemae | Sep 30, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
Adult/High School–In this follow-up to Finding Nouf (Houghton Mifflin, 2008), Ferraris reveals an even deeper inside view of the interactions of men and women in Muslim society, this time adding an American couple living in Saudi Arabia. Miriam hated living in Jeddah from the start, but it is only when her husband Eric disappears that she understands the full extent of her vulnerability. Despite his utter discomfort with testing the Muslim edict not to be alone with women, Nayir (desert guide extraordinaire) finds himself helping Miriam. And he also cannot resist when Katya, assistant in the medical examiner’s office, asks for his aid with an investigation into the murder of a Saudi journalist in her early 20s, Leila, .... ( A wonderful tension between Nayir and Katya runs throughout. The pacing is perfect, fast enough to keep readers engaged, but allowing the fascinating cultural details to be clear. Elements such as the introduction of a bluetooth burqa and an intense desert sandstorm rescue will appeal to teen readers. ...–Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City
added by terran | editSchool Library Journal, Angela Carstensen (Oct 29, 2010)
American novelist Ferraris....renders a suspenseful mystery and a sobering portrait of the lives of Muslim women.
added by bell7 | editBooklist, Allison Block
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After the body of a brutally beaten woman is found on a beach in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Detective Osama Ibrahim, along with the help of female coroner Katya and her friend Nayir, discovers that the victim was a controversial filmmaker and must discern whowanted her dead.… (more)

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