FINDING NOUF is the first in a series written by Zoe Ferraris taking place in Saudi Arabia and centering around the disappearance of Nouf Shrawi, a teenaged daughter of a powerful, wealthy family. Nouf has been reported missing and the family hires Nayir al-Sharqi, a desert guide and friend of the family, to find her. They suspect an abduction but no ransom has been demanded. Soon after Nayir begins his search, Nouf's body is found in the desert, a victim of an apparent drowning. Though the Medical Examiner closes the case, one of Nouf's brothers, Othman, quietly keeps Nayir on to find out what really happened to his sister.
Upon visiting the ME's office, Nayir encounters Katya Hijazi who works in the women's section. Katya is one of very few women to have a professional job in their very strict culture. Nayir, being extremely traditional, has a difficult time dealing with Katya and her involvement with the case. Not only does she know the family, but she is also engaged to Othman.
With Katya's help in the lab, Naryir begins to uncover clues as to what may have happened to Nouf, but some clues lead to even more difficult and sometimes troubling questions. Nayir fears the answers may bring him to a terrible truth and jeopardize his friendship with the Shrawi family.
One of the things I like about this book is that it's not your typical mystery novel. I love the Saudi Arabian locale and the culture it brought into the story. While Ms. Ferraris kept the mystery around Nouf's disappearance moving, she also successfully incorporated Nayir's inner conflict regarding his thoughts on women and what was proper behavior. Nayir lives a quiet, solitary life and he longs to know the love of a woman but scolds himself for having what he considers impure thoughts. The more time he spent with Katya working on the case only made Nayir more conflicted. His admiration for her was growing yet he often felt she was crossing a line and it was his responsibility to maintain a proper distance. Especially considering she was engaged to his friend. The two characters worked well together and was a natural fit.
The Muslim culture has always intrigued me so it was only natural that I enjoyed that aspect of the book so much. That is what makes this such a unique series and one that I will definitely continue reading. The second book in the series, CITY OF VEILS was released by Little, Brown and Company in August of 2010. I'm looking forward to discovering the next case these two unique characters team up to solve.
Author: Zoe Ferraris
Publisher: Mariner Books
Published: May 2009
Source: Purchased from Alibris