When I lived in Saudi Arabia, I discovered that there are rules for everything. How to tuck your feet when you pray. How to dispose of old bread. How to trim your eyebrows. [In the novel] Nayir discovers what I’m learning myself: that Islam is not all about the rules. They’re often just window dressing, a show of religiosity. For the biggest problems, you’ll only find the answers in your heart.
~Zoë Ferraris, "What's Islam About?"
In the early '90s, Zoë Ferraris, an Oklahoma-born military brat, married a Saudi-Palestinian Bedouin man and moved to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with their young daughter. For nine months, in the midst of the aftermath of the Gulf War, she lived with her husband and his family in a conservative Muslim community. Ferraris and her husband have since divorced and she now lives in California, but after she got her MFA in Fiction in 2006, her experiences in Saudi Arabia inspired her to write three mystery novels set in that country.
Each book features forensic scientist Katya Hijazi and desert guide Nayir Sharqi working in collaboration with the police. Zoë Ferraris' books have received much praise, including: "my favorite kind of mystery: an unlikely detective guiding us through an unfamiliar world" (David Ebershoff); "This deeply original work is entrancing, stylish, and utterly compelling" (Diana Abu-Jaber); and "a suspenseful mystery and a sobering portrait of the lives of Muslim women" (Booklist).
Sixteen-year-old Nouf ash-Shrawi, daughter of a wealthy Saudi Arabian family, mysteriously disappears and is eventually found drowned in the desert. Was she kidnapped, or did she run away—and if the latter, why? Nouf's brother, Othman, asks his friend Nayir Sharqi, a local desert guide, to find out what happened to his sister. Nayir's investigation leads him into unknown territory—notably, the secret realm of women in a segregated Middle Eastern society. In an unusual partnership that challenges his traditional ideas, Nayir works on the case with Othman's fiance, a laboratory technician in the medical examiner's office
After the body of a brutally beaten woman is found on a beach in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Detective Osama Ibrahim, along with the help of female coroner Katya and her friend Nayir, discovers that the victim was a controversial filmmaker and must discern whowanted her dead.
Ibrahim Al-Brehm, a respectable husband and police inspector on Jeddah's murder squad, goes to Katya, one of the few women on the force, to locate a missing woman and Katya uncovers a murder which connects the woman to a human trafficking ring.