Review: “Finding Nouf” by Zoe Ferraris

Thumbs up for Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris. Mystery.

After reading Alif the Unseen I’ve been in the mood to visit the Middle East, literarily at least. This interesting mystery takes place in Saudi Arabia and follows Nayir, a somewhat sheltered desert guide, and Katya Hijazi, a lab technician who works at the coroner’s office, as they try to discover what happened to Nouf, the sister of Nayir’s best friend (who is in turn Katya’s fiance). The writing is smooth, in style more like a novel than a mystery, and the mystery itself is complex (maybe a bit unrealistically so, when all is revealed at the end). Recommended for someone who wants a well-written mystery that gives an interesting glimpse into Saudi Arabian culture.

Like many residents, Nayir spent much of his driving time seeking out roundabouts and giving their sculptures pejorative names. It was a habit he’d picked up from Azim – Azim, who had gone to Palestine for an aunt’s funeral seven weeks ago and hadn’t been heard from since. Nayir entered the first roundabout off Medina Road, with the Enormous Bicycle propped in its center, its handlebars three times taller than a man. (He called in “Made in China.”) He circled twice and cut east, zipping through the roundabout that held the first-ever Saudia jet (“God Bless America for Infidel Technology”) until he reached the clogged lanes around Mathematical Tools – compass dividers and a T-square straddled by a protractor the size of an upended Boeing. He circled languidly, studying the sculpture from every side, but he couldn’t come up with a clever name. “Arab Inventions”? “What We Used to Do Back When We Used to Do Something Important”? What did they do, anyway? He’d forgotten.

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