Women in Saudi Arabia are expected to lead quiet lives circumscribed by Islamic law and 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, the city's detectives are ready to dismiss the case as 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. If this is another housemaid killed by her employer, finding the culprit will be all but impossible.
Only Katya is convinced that the victim can be identified and her killer found. She calls upon her friend Nayir for help, and soon discovers that the dead girl was a young filmmaker named Leila, whose controversial documentaries earned her many enemies.
With only the woman's clandestine footage as a guide, Katya and Nayir must confront the dark side of Jeddah that Leila struggled to expose: an underworld of prostitution, violence, exploitation, and jealously guarded secrets. Along the way, they form an unlikely alliance with an American woman whose husband has disappeared. Their growing search takes them from the city's car-clogged streets to the deadly vastness of the desert beyond.
In City of Veils, Zoë Ferraris combines a thrilling, fast-paced mystery with a rare and intimate look into women's lives in the Middle East.
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"Starred Review. [A] stellar second novel...a searing portrait of the religious and cultural veils that separate Muslim women from the modern world." - Publishers Weekly
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Zoë Ferraris moved to Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the first Gulf War to live with her then-husband and his extended family, a group of Saudi-Palestinian Bedouins who had never welcomed an American into their lives before. She first conceived the idea for Finding Nouf at a jacket bazaar in Jeddah, where her ex-husband bought a "Columbo" coat and proposed setting off to solve mysteries - though to Zoë the only mystery at the time was why they were at a jacket bazaar in the hottest country in the world. She has an M.F.A. from Columbia University and received first prize for mystery fiction at the Santa Barbara Writers' Conference in 2003. She currently lives in San Francisco with her teenage daughter.
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"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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