20 Oct 2011



The Victim.
On a scalding afternoon, the mutilated body of a young woman, half naked beneath her burqa, is discovered on a Saudi beach; soon afterwards a Western woman's husband vanishes without trace.

The Place.
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the City of Veils. A city of narrow streets and closed shutters, where nothing is what it seems; and the Empty Quarter - one of the most beautiful, yet unforgiving deserts on earth.

The People.
Miriam Walker, alone in an alien culture, desperate to find her missing husband. Katya, a forensic scientist battling the prejudices of a society full of sexual, religious and moral contradictions; and Nayir, devout muslim, desert guide, amateur sleuth - the man she loves.
...... Outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE (Chapter 1): The woman's body was lying on the beach.

MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 385): The fairy tales he'd heard as a child always began with the words kan ya ma kan - it was, and it was not. He'd come to associate those words with the desert. One moment a foot would break the sand, and the next it would be gone, wiped away by an oblivious wind.

KEEP IT OR NOT?: A reading group read, I shall be returning this.

A so-so crime fiction novel, the only things that really stood out for me was the somewhat unusual setting of Saudi Arabia and the 'desert event'.

The desert event?

I really don't want to go into any more details for fear of including a spoiler BUT I will say that it involved a camel and, though the outcome didn't seem particularly realistic to me, it was very dramatic.

No, the thing that really appealed to me about City Of Veils was the details about modern life in Saudi Arabia - and, in particular, the life of the women, both Saudi and American. Fascinating reading I learnt such a lot about the culture and the gulf between the so-called fundamentalists and modernists.

Despite this being the second book to feature desert guide Nayir and forensic scientist Katya (I haven't read the first, Night Of The Mi'raj, though this didn't have any impact on my enjoyment of this novel)this was not the best written of books, and, as I mentioned before, though there were aspects to the story that I found unlikely, City Of Veils is never-the-less a tense read (once you get a third or so of the way  through) that has a touch of romance thrown in for good measure.

The 73rd book read in my 100+ Reading Challenge, I shall be certain to keep an eye out for the next book in this series.


GMR said...

This one immediately brought to mind the movie Sex and the City 2...total flashback, really (not that a murder happened in it, but "scary" events did at one point). Thanks for the share!

Kelly said...

Well, it does sound like an interesting setting, but I probably have more than enough murder mysteries and crime fiction in my TBR pile to hold me awhile.

Btw...I'm currently reading one of your recs from quite awhile back. Another you recommended recently came in the mail yesterday- from the UK! (could only find used)

joemmama said...

Thanks for stopping by..This looks good! yet another one for my ever growing list.

Betty Manousos@ Cut and Dry said...

i have to agree with kelly.

murder mysteries and crime fiction are quite interesting as books, but i think i've had enough of them.

so glad to see your lovely profile photo on my blog. thanks!:)

big hugs!
betty X

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

Hm... I'd have to know if the camel is okay first. That's just me...

Well, it didn't sound too bad but sorry it was only so so for you.

Monalisa said...

Hmm.. though a bit unimpressive outer cover, book name and something else i can't describe, I should say the writer ruined it. I'm actually a fan of desert sand stories as they normally have a lot to speak. Deserts although barren in themselves, carry incredible upshots of stories and events, and that have always amazed me. I'm a product of deserts in a way. This one somehow puts me down.

chitra said...

Seems to be an interesting book, set in a different cultural background and country. Love your thirst for reading....

kavita said...

To me it sounds like a great book .Would surely get it if available here .Thanks for the review Tracy .

anilkurup said...

In the 1970's it was the Commies and the USSR that gave all the masala for fictions , films etc. Now the fodder is Islamic fanaticism and terror.

I do not have any admiration for this antediluvian country Saudi Arabia. I was horror stricken when I watched the film ( banned in India ) in the 1970's ,"Death of Princess", which told the tale of a Saudi princess who fell in love with an American and was found guilty of premarital affair and beheaded. The actual event ( in real time) was shot by a journalist surreptitiously.

Continue your read.

iamjen said...

oh i so love to read crime and mystery books. looks good to me!

I really like the style of your book review, esp the memorable moment ;) very interesting to read ;)

animewookie said...

I had to laugh when you said it involved a camel...it just struck me silly :D

naida said...

You always find some really interesting reads. This sound different. Now Im wondering about the desert scene.

Mamakucingbooks said...

sounds good to me, no? am crazy about books from that side of the world. But from the way you described it, am not so sure about this book now.

Well, if this book end up at my side of the world, and the price is right, maybe i'll give it a go.

Recently I've read a book "The Hungry Ghosts". It was not what I have expected.