Sunday, October 31, 2010

Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris

Nouf ash-Shrawi was 16 and engaged to be married went she went missing from her family's opulent home in Saudi Arabia. Nayir ash-Sharqi is the desert guide asked to lead the search for her, but his efforts are in vain; her body is found by Bedouin travellers. When the coroner rules that her suspicious death is accidental, this doesn't sit well with Nayir. Katya Hijazi, the female lab tech who assisted with the examination of Nouf's body, is also unhappy with this obvious miscarriage of justice. Nayir, a devout Muslim batchelor, and Katya, one of the rare Saudi women who work outside the home, make an unlikely pair. Within the restrictions of their gender-segregated society, they manage to continue an informal investigation, even when it looks like the secrets they uncover may destroy their good relations with the powerful Shrawi family.

Nayir's traditional beliefs are challenged and he is forced through his interactions with Katya to rethink his assumptions about women. The plot was compelling and the mystery was satisfyingly complex. I very much enjoyed the glimpse into contemporary life in the Middle East. Author Zoe Ferraris is an American who married into a Saudi-Palestinian Bedouin family and lived in Saudi Arabia.

Readalikes: Mirage by Bandula Chandraratna (for a bleaker look at women's life in the Middle East) and The Eye of Jade by Diane Wei Liang (for another mystery with a focus on contemporary women's lives outside North America).

No comments: