zaterdag 8 oktober 2016

"The Night of the Mi'raj" by Zoë Ferraris

"He was just about to speak again when the door opened behind them, and a woman entered the room. There would, of course, be female examiners to handle the female corpses, but seeing one in the flesh was a shock. She wore a white lab coat and a hijab, a black scarf on her hair. Because her face was exposed, he averted his gaze, blushing as he did so."

Nouf ash-Shrawi, daughter of a rich Saudi Arabian family, mysteriously disappears shortly before her wedding. Nayir, a desert guide and friend of Nouf's brother, is asked to look for her. Very soon, her body is found. Apparently, Nouf ran away from home and accidentally drowned in a flood. The case is officially closed. But Nayir suspects there's more to the case and is convinced that a crime is being covered up. His suspicions are confirmed by Katya Hijazi, a forensic scientist who helped examine Nouf's body. Nayir will have to work together with Katya to discover the truth. Which is not an easy task, as Nayir is very traditional in his views on the role of women, and Katya is a free-fought young woman, who would like no less than to do away with these ideas. Initially very reluctant to be in each other's company, Nayir and Katya start to understand, respect and like each other.

"The Night of the Mi'raj" is both a crime novel and an intriguing look at Islamic culture. It succeeds best at the latter. The strength of the novel lies in the two main characters and the way they interact - Nayir's traditional ideas constantly clash with Katya's progressive mindset. It certainly adds to the mystery layer of the book, which is an okay detective story, but not really that inventive or clever. Will this kind of ethnological crime fiction be the next big thing after historical crime fiction and Dan Brown-like thrillers? I certainly wouldn't mind.

Author: Zoë Ferraris
Title: The Night of the Mi'ra (aka "Finding Nouf")
Publisher: Abacus, London
Year: 2009 (orig. 2008)
Number of pages: 360 p.
ISBN: 9780349120324

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