Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Review of City of Veils by Zoë Ferraris (2009, Abacus)

Shortly after Miriam, an American woman married to a contractor working in Saudi Arabia, arrives back in the country after a trip home her husband disappears. Cautious of the authorities given its repressive regime, particularly towards women, she’s scared and out of her depth. On a local beach the disfigured body of a young woman is found. Detective Osama Ibrahim is assigned to investigate, aided by forensic scientist, Katya Hijazi, one of the few women working in the police force. After a stuttering start, the woman is identified and eventually connected to Miriam’s husband. Aided by her Bedouin friend, Nayir, who could end up being much more, Katya tries to make a positive contribution to the case. But it’s not easy to be a female investigator in Saudi, and just as difficult to start a relationship of equals with a devout man. Miriam’s life, however, depends on Katya making progress on both fronts.

City of Veils is the second book in the Katya and Nayir trilogy set in Saudi Arabia. As with the first book, there is a very strong sense of place and politics, and continued good character development. The plot is intriguing and engaging, with plenty of twists and turns, though the desert denouement felt a little over-dramatic and switched pace and structure. While the story provides a fascinating social commentary on Saudi society, at times there was a bit too much tell rather than show, with the narrative explaining a situation rather than just detailing it. The result was a kind of education through fiction that felt a little too prescriptive even if it was informative. Other than that, I thought it was a well plotted, entertaining read with two lead characters I’m happy to spend time with.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Natural order of things

He hadn’t quite got to grips with life; stumbling into one dead-end after another, backtracking having never understood what had gone wrong, yet somehow muddling through. And it was happening again. The same kind of wall was starting to form ahead. Another week, another month, and he’d start to retreat. This time though he’d resolved not to advance again; he’d make-do in situ. Live hand-to-mouth, slowly decay and retreat from view. Maybe there could be solace in loneliness; some inner peace free of hurt and hope. Perhaps that was how things were meant to be; the natural order of things.


A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Shipwreck and lifeboat

‘You need to pull yourself together.’

‘I am together.’

‘No, you’re not. You’re all at a sea. Without a compass.’

‘I’m fine. We’ll be fine. You want another drink?’

‘No. Neither do you. You call this fine? Look at you, you’re an emotional mess. She has you’re head so twisted you can’t think straight.’

‘That’s what love does to you.’

‘It’s what abusive love does. She’s a bitch; you’re just too bewitched to do anything about it.’

‘I know, but …’

‘So, what are you going to do?’



‘What else can I do? She’s my shipwreck and lifeboat.’

A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Review of Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin (2013, Orion)

For his last case in internal affairs DI Malcolm Fox has been assigned to investigate a 30 year old murder case in which the police team was suspected of helping the perpetrator evade justice. It’s a case from the start of Rebus’ career when he was a new member of the ‘Saints of the Shadow Bible’, a group of detectives who brandished their own form of justice when the system failed to adequately punish criminals. Retired and now re-employed to work cold cases, Rebus is clinging on to being a police officer. His old team are relying on him to stifle the investigation, but that’s hardly his modus operandi, even if it means he could bring himself down. It’s a distraction he doesn’t need however given he’s got a whiff of something off in a car crash involving the justice minister’s son, which is quickly followed by the minister’s death. His old colleague DI Siobhan Clarke is involved in that case, which provides Rebus the opportunity to interfere. Rankin nicely brings his three principle characters together through the investigation of the old and new cases, spinning an intriguing and entertaining tale. As usual the strength of the story are the lead characters and their interaction, the well-constructed plot, and the contextualisation and extension of the longer series arc that made the installment feel like catching up with an old friend. My sense was that there wasn’t an element out of place.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Does she hate us that much?

‘You’ve found her?’

‘Can I come in, Mrs Cale?’

‘Of course. Is she …’

Sergeant Lowe allowed himself to be ushered into the sitting room.

Mr Cale kept his gaze on the television.

‘Sit, sit. Do you want tea? Coffee?’

‘I’m fine. You’d better take a seat.’

‘She’s …’

‘Alive. She’s a witness. That’s how we …’

‘Oh. Oh, thank god,’ Mrs Cale started to weep.

‘She said to say that she’s fine.’

‘But she’s coming home?’

‘Not yet. She … It’s her choice. We have to respect that.’

‘But …’

‘I’m sorry.’


‘Does she hate us that much?’

A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Big stakes

‘Did you hear? Mary’s got the covid.’

‘Mary? Jesus. I’ll raise you two matches. I’ll bet it’ll live to regret it.’

‘She’ll nag the thing into a new strain. I’ll take one and raise you a match.’

‘A whole match? Can your dodgy heart cope with the big stakes? She’ll have that fecker feeling under the weather in no time.’

‘We’ll never hear the end of it otherwise.’

‘Unless … I’ll see your match and raise you two.’

‘She’s as tough as old boots. Two pair, queen high.’

‘Three of a kind.’

‘But pray it’s not a threesome with Mary.’

A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.