City of Veils was published in 2010 by Little, Brown. My editor was Asya Muchnick, my British editor Richard Beswick. Julie Barer was the star agent who scored this deal.
Unlike my first novel, I got feedback from other foreign publishers - in France, Germany, and Italy. I discovered that each territory has its own take on what makes a story most interesting. The French editor, for example, wanted more about the relationship between the couples, my German editor was concerned with the non-fiction aspects of the desert (archaeology, sandstorms, give us some facts please). It was complementary editing and I remain grateful for all the advice.
When the body of a brutally murdered and severely disfigured woman is found on the beach in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Detective Osama Ibrahim dreads investigating another unsolvable housemaid murder—unpleasantly common in a city where the veils of conservative Islam keep women as anonymous in life as the victim is in death. Digging deeper, however, an ambitious lab-tech named Katya discovers that the body is not that of a disobedient servant, but Leila Nawar, a rebellious young filmmaker who has made more than a few enemies with her probing documentaries on religious hypocrisy and sexuality. Aided by her conservatively religious friend Nayir Sharqi, Katya is determined to find Leila's killer and uncover the mystery of her death.
Meanwhile, when American Miriam Walker's husband Eric disappears only hours after picking her up at the airport, she struggles not to worry. As ex-patriots living in Jeddah, run-ins with the religious police are not uncommon. But when Nayir and Katya show up asking about her husband's connections to Leila Nawar, it becomes apparent that Eric may have been mixed up in something considerably more sinister. By agreeing to help them find her husband and prove his innocence, Miriam puts herself in the dangerous path of his kidnappers, leading her far into the deserts of the Empty Quarter.
Now I know that when you put the word "veils" in the title, you're asking for veils on the cover. I don't mind, only that so many of the women look white to me with their blue eyes or wispy locks of light hair. City of Veils does feature an American character, but it features more of Katya Hijazi, my Arab investigator.
My husband said that when he first read the series, Nayir looked exactly like Kareem Nazir from Vertical Limit. Rugged, outdoorsy, didn't hesitate to pray when he needed to.
From an interview with Amy Steele:
AS: Did you base Katya on any women you met in Saudi Arabia?
ZF: In a way, she was inspired by a few women I met there who were highly educated and who were working outside the home as well as raising families. I was really interested in these women except that the ones I seemed to meet were often extremely devout. I started getting the idea that maybe they cloaked themselves in devoutness to protect themselves from criticism. So a woman works outside the home, and has a successful career, but no one is going to say she’s a bad Muslim, because every time you talk to her, she’s so intense that you get scared for your mortal soul. I really wanted Katya to be more moderate. I eventually started meeting more moderate-thinking women, and I’d say they’re the majority.
Can we talk about lingerie for a moment? It shows up in City of Veils a lot. One of my suspects owns a lingerie store, and it gives my characters a chance to look at the contradictions of Saudi life. How does a woman shop for lingerie in a world where it is difficult, or even forbidden, to interact with strange men - who are also the ones who happen to run lingerie stores? How to discuss bra sizing with a stranger? How to try on a negligee?
Torie Bosch tells more in an article for Slate: "Mystery Novel Gives Insight to the Ban on Men Working in Saudi Arabia's Lingerie Stores" To read the article, check out "Explore" in the nav bar.
"Claustrophobic and totally original, this is modern crime fiction at its very best."
—Joan Smith, The Independent
"The plot is thrilling, with plenty of twists and turns... but what makes this novel really extraordinary is Ferraris's knowledgeable and sensitive depiction of a place where religion [has been] used as a blunt instrument."