Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris
Nouf, a sixteen year old bride to be, is found dead in a wadi in the Arabian Desert. It was assumed that she ran away to the desert, but the autopsy determines that she was hit on the head and then drowned. How did she drown in the desert? Did she run away from her marriage? Or was she kidnapped? Nafir, a family friend and desert guide, is asked to investigate Nouf’s death and look for the murderer, if she was murdered. Nouf’s brother Othman also asks his fiancée, Katya Hijazi, an assistant at the coroner’s office to look into the death as well. Nafir and Katya need to work together to solve the crime, but can the strict rules of society be bent enough to allow the pair to succeed?
I haven’t read anything set in Saudi Arabia before so I thought this would be an interesting read. I enjoy mysteries in foreign settings so that was another factor in its favor. However I found this book very difficult to get through. Once I was about a third into it the mystery really starting to take center stage and I read eagerly. Before that point it was really difficult going. It started as a detailed and slow paced introduction to the characters and society, well written, but difficult because of the subject matter. I am allowed to drive, ride a bike, go outside in any weather (nevermind over a hundred degrees) without my body and face completely covered and interact with men and women at work, at home or on the street. All things Katya was not allowed to do, and when she did she had to fear the religious police. I couldn’t imagine living day to day in this city; forget trying to solve a crime. I’m glad I read it, it was a great mystery, but I don’t think I could take reading any others in the series.