When a secret grave is uncovered in the Saudi Arabian desert, containing the bodies of nineteen women, the area is rocked by the realization that a serial killer has been operating for over a decade in the city, undetected. For Chief Inspector Ibrahim Zahrani, the case hits close to home, as his secret mistress is missing, but he cannot report her missing, as adultery is punishable by death. Ibrahim has reached a dead end, and so reaches out to Katya Hijazi, one of the few women on the police force. Together they must enter the Saudi Arabian underworld, and try and find some answers.
Kingdom of Strangers explores the extreme segregation that occurs in Saudi Arabia, and as readers, we are able to get a glimpse into how different our lives would be should we inhabit the desert nation. It is a location where men and women are completely separated, with segregated shopping centers, restaurants, and even morgues. For Westerners, the setting is eye opening, and adds to the brilliance of the novel. The use of a female police officer, given the setting, is a brilliant choice by Ferraris, as we see the difference gender makes in such a male oriented career.
The story of murder and deception is wonderfully realistic, with the unique setting bringing a breath of fresh air into the often-tired crime genre.
Written by Zoe Ferraris, an American who lived in Saudi Arabia after the first gulf war with her then husband, the heart-felt accuracy with which the story is written is amazing.
Although some of the local terminology used is slightly alienating, a glossary is located at the end of the book to assist readers.
Kingdom of Strangers is a gripping novel, which fans of the crime genre, and those looking for something a little different, will thoroughly enjoy.
Available now: Hachette RRP$29.99