Geographically the setting for Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris could not be more different than Scandinavian mysteries I often read, but the glimpse into another place, another culture, is even more interesting. This novel is set in Saudi Arabia where it is so hot that people carry pot holders to open car doors, and men traditionally purchase multiple coats for their new brides to represent the places they may go when they are married (because they will never have need of them in their home country). The rule bound world of devout Muslims — both women and men– plays a significant role in the story line.
Nayir ash-Sharqui is a Palestinian born and raised in Saudi Arabia. He is often hired by the wealthy Shrawi family to guide them on their desert excursions, and is good friends with one the sons, Othman. Othman comes to him when his 16 year old sister, Nouf, disappears days before her marriage. She is found dead in the desert and when Nayir goes to the coroner’s office to bring her body home he meets laboratory technician Katya Hijazi, Othman’s fiance. They suspect murder and team up to investigate.
The murder investigation is interesting, but it is the depictions of Saudi life that really grabbed my interest. The author, who is American, lived for several years in Saudi Arabia, and her story is very authentic.