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City of Veils
Little, Brown & Company 2010
400 pages hardcover
Sometimes terrifyingly brutal; sometimes tender, and always interesting, City of Veils is the book to read. This second mystery novel by Zoe Ferrais is apt to shock, disturb and captivate from beginning to end.
Set in Saudi Arabia, a country where 90 degrees is considered "unseasonably cool", the gruesome body of a woman is found on the beach. Detective Osama Ibrahim is faced with the mystery of who she is-just another runaway housemaid?-and why she was killed. Keen to learn the ropes of investigation, Katya, a young woman in the coroner's office, is called to assist.
Meanwhile, American, Miriam Walker returns from New York. Terrified, she becomes embroiled in a dangerous quest to find her missing husband. Is there a connection between Eric and the dead woman, or was the latter so enmeshed in bold, controversial behaviour that she paid with her life? When plots
intersect, it makes for some surprising developments, and further interesting reading.
In this solid story, Ferrais paints an intense picture, highlighting women, of those whose lives are governed by what many Westerners would consider extreme rules of conduct, and consequences for breaching them. She is an excellent writer with a beautiful poetic style who uses imaginative, enriched descriptions which, sometimes frighteningly real, draw us in to experience every moment. (Wait until the sandstorm!) Her characters and subject matter stir the emotions within a layered and complex novel.
A small bone to pick, is the ending, which twists away from what we've been led to believe. Sticking to the original theory would have been more exciting, and consistent. In spite of that, City of Veils remains highly recommended.