When sixteen-year-old Nouf goes missing, her prominent family calls on Nayir al-Sharqi, a pious desert guide, to lead the search party. Ten days later, just as Nayir is about to give up in frustration, her body is discovered by anonymous desert travelers. But when the coroner’s office determines that Nouf died not of dehydration but from drowning, and her family seems suspiciously uninterested in getting at the truth, Nayir takes it upon himself to find out what really happened.
He quickly realizes that if he wants to gain access to the hidden world of women, he will have to join forces with Katya Hijazi, a lab worker at the coroner’s office who is bold enough to bare her face and to work in public. Their partnership challenges Nayir, as he confronts his desire for female companionship and the limitations imposed by his beliefs.
I picked up this mystery based in Jeddah because I am currently living in Dhahran KSA and was intrigued. The author lived in Saudi Arabia and certainly has an understanding of the complexities of life here.
The mystery itself wasn't that mysterious especially if you are familiar with the culture here, but the book itself was nevertheless engaging with its focus on a conservative male desert guide and a fairly liberal female employee of the morgue. It is these two characters and their growing understanding of each other that forms the backbone of the story; the search for the missing daughter of a wealthy family is simply the mechanism that brings them together. 4 stars for quality writing and an interesting & unusual theme.