Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Book Review: City of Veils by Zoe Ferraris

I have been reading mysteries….forever.  When I finished all the children’s books at my little local library growing up, the librarians pointed me to the adult section and allowed me to check out ‘grown up’ books.  I read Agatha Christie.  And while Gothic romances can’t necessarily be called mysteries, there is a thread of that in there.  I follow Susan Albert Wittig and Diane Mott Davidson, among others, to satisfy my need for ‘who done it’.  When I started City of Veils I realized all my reading in the mystery genre had been almost 100 percent American or European settings.  Elizabeth Peters did set her books in the Nile area, but still, the characters where English.  So I picked up Zoe Ferraris’ book primarily because it was set in modern day Saudi Arabia.

First off I have to say this book is the second in a series.  Normally, I am not firm in that you have to read book 1 and then book 2.  And this is a case where you could skip book 1 and read book 2.  There are some references in City of Veils to things that happened in book 1, but not to the extent you lose content.  However, that said, Finding Nouf is on my table by my bed.

city-of-veils-225  Secondly, the plot of the book is not earth-shattering.  There is an interesting mystery to follow, but nothing that is so novel or clever as to be ‘novel’ (forgive the pun).  Sound story, but not all that new and exciting.  There is one murder and one disappearance to solve, which at first do not seem to be related.  And an American woman thrown in who is having to cope in a strange land and culture.  Ms. Ferraris does a good job of weaving the two different plot lines together into one sound story.  Definitely worth reading just for the plot lines.

What really caught my attention was the rich explanations of the culture and laws concerning women in Saudi Arabia.  Her treatment of showing how women have to work and are allowed to interact in public and with men was fascinating.  I could not image having to have a male escort, which is a family member, to go to the store or run errands.  Of course, wearing a burqa whenever I leave the house might not be a bad idea considering some of the outfits I have thrown on to run to the store in.  However, in 100 plus temperatures, I don’t think even a possible run-in with a religious policeman would convince me to wear one.  The way the females in the book who were allowed to work outside the home and in a public situation, such as the police station, was cause of several moments of contemplation.  If nothing else, the immersion into Saudi life was worth the read.

This is a book well worth reading it only to take you out of the ‘Western’ mode of thinking and expose yourself to a different culture and way of life.

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