City of Veils: A Novel

City of Veils: A Novel

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by Zoë Ferraris
     
 

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Women in Saudi Arabia are expected to lead quiet lives circumscribed by Islamic tradition. But Katya, one of the few women in the medical examiner's office, is determined to make her work mean something.

When the body of a brutally beaten woman is found on the beach in Jeddah, detectives are ready to dismiss the case as another unsolvable murder. Only Katya is

Overview

Women in Saudi Arabia are expected to lead quiet lives circumscribed by Islamic tradition. But Katya, one of the few women in the medical examiner's office, is determined to make her work mean something.

When the body of a brutally beaten woman is found on the beach in Jeddah, detectives are ready to dismiss the case as another unsolvable murder. Only Katya is convinced that the victim can be identified and her killer found.

Katya soon discovers that the dead girl was a young filmmaker named Leila whose controversial documentaries earned her many enemies. Was it Leila's connection to an incendiary Koranic scholar or a missing American man that got her killed?

In CITY OF VEILS, the award-winning novelist Zoë Ferraris combines a thrilling, fast-paced mystery with a rare and intimate look into women's lives in the Middle East.

Editorial Reviews

Ranya Idliby - co-author of The Faith Club
PRAISE FOR CITY OF VEILS:

"Zoë Ferraris delivers the Muslim The Da Vinci Code. It kept me up at night. I loved it!"

Los Angeles Times
PRAISE FOR FINDING NOUF:

"Ferraris shows how the clash of tradition and desire, especially for women, is fraught with danger both hidden and overt... She open[s] Saudi Arabia for mystery fans to reveal the true minds and hearts of its denizens."

Entertainment Weekly
"Remarkable...Its mystery takes place within a culture that has itself largely been under wraps...It's the individual journeys of Nayir and Katya, who abide by their society's strictures even as they are frustrated by them, that elevate Finding Nouf to a larger human drama."
Kathleen Kent - author of The Heretic's Daughter
"A gripping, many times disturbing, story of murder and the search for justice in an ancient society at odds with a woman's fight for independence."
Kate Furnivall - author of The Girl from Junchow
"An intense and thoughtful thriller."
Michael Koryta - author of So Cold the River
"Superb.... Ferraris is one of the most important new voices in crime fiction."
Cara Black - author of Murder in the Latin Quarter
"Lifts the veil on Saudi Arabia.... Ferraris weaves an engrossing, taut tale."
Jenny White - author of The Winter Thief
"A fascinating, insightful, and remarkably balanced look inside a society unfamiliar to most readers."
Mahbod Seraji - author of Rooftops of Tehran
"Exhilarating. Ferraris masterfully captures the nuances of the Saudi culture and its women, while brilliantly exposing the conflict between tradition and desire."
David Corbett - author of Do They Know I'm Running?
"A marvelous book. Ferraris demonstrates the instinctive authority of both an elegant stylist and a born storyteller."
Anne Zouroudi - author of The Messenger of Athens
"Taut and intelligent, set against a troubling backdrop of brutality, oppression and searing desert heat."
From the Publisher
PRAISE FOR CITY OF VEILS:"

Zoë Ferraris delivers the Muslim The Da Vinci Code. It kept me up at night. I loved it!"—Ranya Idliby, co-author of The Faith Club"

A gripping, many times disturbing, story of murder and the search for justice in an ancient society at odds with a woman's fight for independence."—Kathleen Kent, author of The Heretic's Daughter"

An intense and thoughtful thriller."—Kate Furnivall, author of The Girl from Junchow"

Superb.... Ferraris is one of the most important new voices in crime fiction."—Michael Koryta, author of So Cold the River"

Lifts the veil on Saudi Arabia.... Ferraris weaves an engrossing, taut tale."—Cara Black, author of Murder in the Latin Quarter"

A fascinating, insightful, and remarkably balanced look inside a society unfamiliar to most readers."—Jenny White, author of The Winter Thief"

Exhilarating. Ferraris masterfully captures the nuances of the Saudi culture and its women, while brilliantly exposing the conflict between tradition and desire."—Mahbod Seraji, author of Rooftops of Tehran"

A marvelous book. Ferraris demonstrates the instinctive authority of both an elegant stylist and a born storyteller."—David Corbett, author of Do They Know I'm Running?"

Taut and intelligent, set against a troubling backdrop of brutality, oppression and searing desert heat."—Anne Zouroudi, author of The Messenger of Athens

PRAISE FOR FINDING NOUF:"

Ferraris shows how the clash of tradition and desire, especially for women, is fraught with danger both hidden and overt... She open[s] Saudi Arabia for mystery fans to reveal the true minds and hearts of its denizens."—Los Angeles Times"

Remarkable...Its mystery takes place within a culture that has itself largely been under wraps...It's the individual journeys of Nayir and Katya, who abide by their society's strictures even as they are frustrated by them, that elevate Finding Nouf to a larger human drama."—Entertainment Weekly

Kathleen Kent
A gripping, many times disturbing, story of murder and the search for justice in an ancient society at odds with a woman's fight for independence.
author of The Heretic's Daughter
Kate Furnivall
An intense and thoughtful thriller.
author of The Girl from Junchow
Michael Koryta
Superb.... Ferraris is one of the most important new voices in crime fiction.
author of So Cold the River
Cara Black
Lifts the veil on Saudi Arabia.... Ferraris weaves an engrossing, taut tale.
author of Murder in the Latin Quarter
Jenny White
A fascinating, insightful, and remarkably balanced look inside a society unfamiliar to most readers.
author of The Winter Thief
Mahbod Seraji
Exhilarating. Ferraris masterfully captures the nuances of the Saudi culture and its women, while brilliantly exposing the conflict between tradition and desire.
author of Rooftops of Tehran
David Corbett
A marvelous book. Ferraris demonstrates the instinctive authority of both an elegant stylist and a born storyteller.
author of Do They Know I'm Running?
Anne Zouroudi
Taut and intelligent, set against a troubling backdrop of brutality, oppression and searing desert heat.
author of The Messenger of Athens
Publishers Weekly
Ferraris's stellar second novel is again set in Saudi Arabia and features the desert guide Nayir Sharqi and forensic scientist Katya Hijazi, introduced in Finding Nouf. Nayir and Hijazi gingerly probe the death of an unconventional young woman found mutilated and half-nude on a beach near Jeddah, as well as the disappearance of an American security contractor, who, to the dismay of his American wife, had a "summer marriage" with the victim. Nayir, a sensitive but orthodox Muslim, inches toward realizing that when a woman is cloistered, a man's duties to her multiply a dozenfold, while independent-minded Katya, whom he loves, pretends to be married in order to work as a technician in Jeddah's homicide force. Katya's boss, Det. Insp. Osama Ibrahim, also loses his progressive self-image after he discovers his wife wants a career more than she wants his children. The author, who lived for a time in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s with her then husband, presents a searing portrait of the religious and cultural veils that separate Muslim women from the modern world. (Aug.)
Library Journal
The brutalized body of a young woman washes up on a Jeddah beach, and an American security guard disappears just after welcoming his wife back to Saudi Arabia. When the victim is identified as Leila Nawar, who flouted religious custom while making provocative films exposing the seamy side of Jeddah and questioning the purity of the Quran, the list of possible suspects grows, eventually turning up a connection to the missing Eric Walker. Working forensics on the murder, Katya Hijazi asks her friend, devout Muslim Nayir Sharqi, for help, and he struggles with his feelings for Katya while becoming involved with Eric's wife.Verdict A vividly depicted horrific desert sandstorm lifts this sequel to the acclaimed Finding Nouf above the pedestrian. But what is particularly notable here is the description by Ferraris, who once lived in the area with her then-Saudi Palestinian husband, of not only the stifling subjugation of women but also of the difficulties facing religious Muslim men in forging loving relationships. This shines as a revealing portrayal of Saudi culture. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/10.]—Michele Leber, Arlington, VA

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780316074261
Publisher:
Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:
08/07/2011
Series:
A Katya Hijazi and Nayir Sharqi Novel Series
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
198,145
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

City of Veils

A Novel
By Ferraris, Zoë

Little, Brown and Company

Copyright © 2010 Ferraris, Zoë
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780316074278

1

The woman’s body was lying on the beach. “Eve’s tomb,” he would later come to think of it, not the actual tomb in Jeddah that was flattened in 1928, to squash out any cults attached to her name, nor the same one that was bulldozed again in 1975, to confirm the point. This more fanciful tomb was a plain, narrow strip of beach north of Jeddah.

That afternoon, Abu-Yussuf carried his fishing gear down the gentle slope to the sand. He was a seasoned fisherman who preferred the activity for its sport rather than its practical value, but a series of layoffs at the desalination plant had forced him to take up fishing to feed his family. Sixty-two and blessed with his mother’s skin, he had withstood a lifetime of exposure to the sun and looked as radiant as a man in his forties. He hit the edge of the shore, the hard-packed sand, with an expansive feeling of pleasure; there were certainly worse ways to feed a family. He looked up the beach and there she was. The woman he would later think of as Eve.

He set his tackle box on the sand and approached carefully in case she was sleeping, in case she sat up and wiped her eyes and mistook him for a djinn. She was lying on her side, her dark hair splayed around her head like the tentacles of a dangerous anemone. The seaweed on her cloak looked at first like some sort of horrible growth. One arm was tucked beneath the body; the other one was bare, and it rested on the sand in a pleading way, as a sleeper might clutch a pillow during a bad dream. The hand was mutilated; it looked to be burned. There were numerous cuts on the forearm. Her bottom half was naked, the black cloak pushed up above her waist, the jeans she was wearing tangled around her feet like chains. His attention turned to the half of her face that wasn’t buried in sand. Whole sections of her cheeks and lips were missing. What remained of the skin was swollen and red, and there were horrible cuts across her forehead. One eye was open, vacant, dead.

“Bism’allah, ar-rahman, ar-rahim,” he began to whisper. The prayer spooled from his mouth as he stared dumbfounded and horrified. He knew he shouldn’t look, he shouldn’t want that sort of image knocking around in his memory, but it took an effort to turn away. Her left leg was half buried in the sand, but now that he was closer, he saw that the right one was cut around the thigh, the slashes bulbous and curved like tamarinds. The rest of the skin was unnaturally pale and bloated. He knew better than to touch the body, but he had the impulse to lay something over the exposed half of her, to give her a last bit of dignity.

He had to go back up to the street to get a good cellular signal. The police came, then a coroner and a forensics team. Abu-Yussuf waited, still clutching his fishing rod, the tackle box planted firmly by his feet. The young officer who first arrived on the scene treated him with affection and called him “uncle.” Would you like a drink, uncle? A chair? I can bring a chair. They interviewed him politely. Yes, uncle, that’s important. Thank you. The whole time, he kept the woman in his line of sight. Out of politeness, he didn’t stare.

While the forensics team worked, Abu-Yussuf began to feel crushingly tired. He sensed that shutting his eyes would lead to a dangerous sleep, so he let his eyes drift out to sea, let his thoughts drift further. Eve. Her real tomb was in the city. It had always seemed strange that she was buried in Jeddah, and that Adam was buried in Mecca. Had they had a falling-out after they were exiled from the Garden of Eden? Or had Adam, like so many men today, simply died first, giving Eve time to wander? His grandmother, rest her soul, once told him that Eve had been 180 meters tall. His grandmother had seen Eve’s grave as a girl, before the king’s viceroy had demolished the site. It had been longer than her father’s entire camel caravan.

One of the forensics men bent over the body. Abu-Yussuf snapped out of his reverie and caught a last glimpse of the girl’s bare arm. Allah receive her. He leaned over and picked up his tackle box, felt a rush of nausea. Swallowing hard, he looked up to the street and began to walk with an energy he didn’t really have. Uncle, can I assist? This was another officer, taller than the first, with a face like a marble sculpture, all smooth angles and stone. The officer didn’t give him time to protest. He took Abu-Yussuf’s arm and they walked up together, taking one slow step at a time. The going became easier when he imagined Eve, a gargantuan woman stomping across cities as if they were doormats. She could have taken this beach with one leap. Pity it was only the modern woman who had been rendered so small and frail.



Continues...

Excerpted from City of Veils by Ferraris, Zoë Copyright © 2010 by Ferraris, Zoë. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Zoë Ferraris moved to Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the first Gulf War to live with her then husband and his extended family of Saudi-Palestinian Bedouins. She has an MFA from Columbia University and is the author of one previous novel, Finding Nouf. She lives in San Francisco and Lexington, KY.

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City of Veils 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a hard book to review as I loved the way it deals with some very difficult but fascinating subject matter concerning the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia, but I found it lacking in characterization and plot. On the plus side, the setting of the book is unusual and fascinating. The author's first-hand perspective of an American woman confined to the house at the mercy of male relatives is evocative and compelling. Of the entire book, Miriam's feelings about being deposited in the "call for" room at the airport, not being able to drive herself around, and other restrictions of life in Saudi Arabia ring true and deep. On the negative side, there are so many characters in the book that none are well developed. I felt as if we were getting a snapshot of each one rather than a video. There was so jumping back and forth that I found myself skipping chapters then going back so I could follow one character at a time. And, worst of all, the ending itself felt flat after all the build-up. There was no great crime, no great discovery, just garden-variety malice and stupidity. I give this book 5 stars for atmosphere and 1 star for plot.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am not a reader of murder mysteries but I picked this one up because the story takes place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and I was curious to see how that would work out. We learn how women are treated on the local police force, about the angst of a conservative muslim man having to deal with women in an evolving Saudi society, we get a glimpse of the desert and getting around in it, and, eventually how the case is solved. I can't judge the merits of the book as a mystery story because I haven't read enough of them to tell if this one is exceptional or not but I can say I enjoyed reading about the setting and the culture of modern Saudi Arabia. Well done.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoy mysteries that also allow me to learn about different historical periods, another culture, an interesting occupation, etc. I have totally enjoyed this and Zoe Ferraris's previous book, Finding Nouf. I find myself constantly telling other people about what I am learning about life in Saudi Arabia. In the midst of this, the mystery (or mysteries - counting the previous book) are well plotted with a reasonable solution.
Tigerpaw70 More than 1 year ago
Book 2 in the Katya Hijazi series "City of Veils" is a modern crime fiction that provides a unique insight into the minds of men highly influenced by their religious upbringing and customs. As a reader from the West, it is an intriguing and shocking glimpse into a life where men and women contribute in a totally different manner in day to day survival. The scorching sands of Saudi Arabia provide the backdrop in this fast-paced and compelling story. The exciting plotting with its many twists and turns and well-drawn characters are what make this exceptional novel what it is. The author has weaved seamlessly three threads together to create a sizzling thriller; it begins with the discovery of a mutilated body of a young woman on a beach. Detective Inspector Osama Ibrahim of the Jeddah Police and female officer Faiza start the investigation and are later join by Katya to interview female witnesses. Katya is very ambitious and her drive will push her too independently research the murder with the help of her trusted friend, Nayir. Another thread has Eric Walker, an American, disappearing under strange circumstances, his wife Mariam seeks help from the American consulate but is disappointed in their lack of results and eventually turns to Nayir and Katya. The author also skilfully develops the personal side of the main characters, Osama who is totally smitten by his wife is in for a rude awakening and Nayir struggles with his principals and feelings towards Katya as their attraction to each other becomes stronger.. This is a great sequel to "Finding Nouf", time well spent between the pages.
TheCrowdedLeaf More than 1 year ago
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.
GiovanniG More than 1 year ago
This novel is an eye opener. I am the proud father of seven girls (we also have a son) and must say that the way in which women are treated in the Middle East have always stunned me. City of Veils gave me a new perspective on the whole thing. Zoe Ferraris has a unique viewpoint being both a woman and having lived in the Middle East, experiencing it first-hand. Her previous novel, Finding Nouf, was a Los Angeles Times Prize Winner. Here is the summary of the novel; When the body of a brutally beaten woman is found on the beach in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Detective Osama Ibrahim dreads investigating another unsolvable murder-chillingly common in a city where the veils of conservative Islam keep women as anonymous in life as the victim is in death. But Katya , one of the few females in the coroner's office, is determined to identify the woman and find her killer. Aided by her friend Nayir, she soon discovers that the victim was a young filmmaker named Leila, whose controversial documentaries earned her many enemies. But was it Leila's work with an incendiary Korainic scholar or a missing American man who got her killed? The plotline is intense, riveting and eye opening to say the least. Ferraris paints a picture and mindset that I would think most Western thinking people, men and women alike, find hard to comprehend and embrace. How do you identify a woman that is murdered that has to have her face shielded seemingly at all times? Difficult job, yes I would think. Maybe our friend Mr. Monk the obsessive/ compulsive detective can find a difference in her burka versus another woman's, but he isn't in this novel. But I digress. I enjoyed this novel on many levels because it really challenged me. The setting, the mindset, the language and customs are all foreign to me. The manner in which the detective had to go about his business, the treatment of the women all were a surprise to me and at times enlightening. Ferraris uses all these things to the reader's advantage as she takes us on a journey that I don't think many of us have a chance to go on in this genre. So for that my hat is off to her. City of Veils is a unique novel for the reasons listed and many more. Dare to be different, give this novel a go, add it to your Goodreads - to read- list and challenge yourself. I think that the suspense and mystery of the novel combined with grappling to understand the mindset of the culture prove to a winning combination. What are you reading today? Check us out and become our friend on Facebook. Go to Goodreads and become our friend there and suggest books for us to read and post on. You can also follow us on Twitter, Book Blogs, and also look for our posts on Amazon,Barnes and Nobles and the Bucks County Library System. Did you know you can shop directly on Amazon by clicking the Gelati's Store Tab on our blog? Thanks for stopping by today; we will see you tomorrow. Have a great day. http://www.gelatisscoop.blogspot.com
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JaynaM More than 1 year ago
I was fascinated by the culture and also enjoyed the mystery, as I did with her first novel. I'm looking forward to reading the third one.
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whimsical_one More than 1 year ago
The City of Veils enunciates well the cultural milieu of the Arab woman today. WhiletThe depiction of women's rights in Arabia is well done, the characters and plot of the novel are thinly drawn.
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