Robin Yassin-Kassab

Posts Tagged ‘Zoe Ferraris

Kingdom of Strangers

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This review was first published at the Guardian.

“Surely” – a desperate character muses on his way to court – “there were a thousand other men like him who’d made mistakes enough to ruin their lives, their careers and their families, and yet surely those men had carried on, as had their families. There was room for everything in this vast, disordered place.”

The place is Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, depicted by celebrated crime writer Zoe Ferraris with sympathy and realism, and in all its complexity: through its text messages and mobiles, SUVs and shopping malls, its exorcist surgeries and women-only banks, plus the “forced meditation” of compulsory prayer. And the harsh worlds inhabited by immigrant workers. Migrant workers, female and male, constitute perhaps a third of the Saudi population, and they give this novel – Kingdom of Strangers – its title.

To start with, nineteen bodies are found in the desert. The carefully mutilated victims are immigrant women, Asians, and their corpes are arranged to convey a hidden message.

Enter Chief Inspector Ibrahim Zahrani, whose repertoire includes policeman’s intuition and Beduin trackers as well as forensic analysts and an American expert on serial killers.

Ibrahim is a liberal in his context, a rationalist, but he’s not squeamish, in his moments of pain, about applying violence to the deserving. His quiet suffering and basic decency would make him a figure of genuine tragedy if the plot didn’t rather unconvincingly spirit him out of danger at the close.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

July 31, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Posted in book review, Saudi Arabia

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