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. It’s not your everyday sleuth adventure when a burning, grinding, sand-storm is rushing toward you. It’s not a generic persons-go-missing and turn up okay later. People die and the villains are punished, and through it all, Ferraris’s writing carries on from one perspective to the next, making each character determined and endearing.
(I received this from the publisher for review)