About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

"F" is for Zoë Ferraris

This week the Alphabet in Crime Fiction meme hosted by Kerrie Smith at Mysteries in Paradise reaches the letter “F”. I am doing a profile of the American author, Zoë Ferraris.

Zoë was born in Oklahoma. Her father was in the American military. On her website she speaks of growing up in the Presido, the former American military base in San Franscisco, and currently resides there. Sharon and I had a walking tour of the Presido a few years ago. It is a fascinating lovely area.

At 19 she met a Saudi-Palestinian Bedouin studying English in America. They married and had a daughter. After the birth of their daughter in 1991 they went for a short visit to his family in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and stayed for almost a year. In a very interesting interview at the BookBrowse website she said:

You have to stay until his mother stops having heart episodes every time you go to the airport

While there she was a keen observer of life in Saudi Arabia.

After returning home to the United States the marriage ended. Zoë and her daughter stayed in America. Her former husband returned to Saudi Arabia and married a woman found for him by his mother.

She has written 3 books set in Saudi Arabia.

I read the first book, Finding Nouf, and liked the book. I thought it provided a vivid picture of life in the Kingdom. Parts of the book would challenge traditional roles for Saudi women. I wondered about official reaction to the book. In an interview with the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, she said there has been no official reaction.

In the BookBrowse interview she described a confrontation with the religious police while she lived in Saudi Arabia:

Women weren't allowed to leave the house alone. If you did, you'd get chased around by the religious police, maybe smacked with a camel whip. One guy went after me with his shoe. When I caught the shoe and ran in the house, he stood at the window and asked for it back.

She had an interesting comment on the burqa in the Haaretz interview:

That's a broad question. My sense is that most Muslim women are on the fence, honestly, about the burka. It's part of their cultural and religious identity, and there's something galling about having someone tell you not to [wear] it. On the other hand, wearing a burka is annoying, it's not natural, so one can easily think, let's get rid of it. Among the women that I know, most are ambivalent, and I'm inclined to agree with those mixed feelings. I wouldn't wear it in America, but I do wear one when I'm in the Middle East. I'm glad that it's become an issue of debate, as it has opened up a discussion worldwide. But suddenly a bunch of women who might not have been asking questions will decide, yes, I will do it.

There are plenty of Muslim countries where plenty of women don't cover themselves. I meet Muslims who are newly arrived in America, and they say that U.S. Muslims are especially radicalized. There's a real polemic about it here, with people insisting on it as a matter of identity. Many women get pushed into a corner to cover their heads.

She is currently working on a YA adult book, Memory of Seas.

As set out above I enjoyed Finding Nouf and expect to read more of the series. In my review of Finding Nouf I found it a thoughtful mystery especially in the way Z tested the attitudes towards women of her sleuth, Nayir ash-Sharqi, when he actually spent time working with Katya Hijazi, a woman who was not at home, but a lab technician in the coroner’s office.


  1. Yet again, an author I don't know, and yet again one that interests me. Zoe Ferrais sounds a most interesting writer and with a solid knowledge of her subject. I liked her statement: 'I get to write about Saudi, but I also get to have my characters do things I want them to do, as opposed to everyone just doing what they want to do.'

  2. Fascinating post, Bill. I haven't read her books but have read many good reviews of them, so hope I will at some point. A lot of people in the UK wear the burka, too, but I presume a lot of muslim women also don't.

  3. Bill - Thanks for a really interesting look at Ferraris. She's had some fascinating experiences! It's especially interesting to get her perspective on life in the Middle East, having lived there but not been born and raised there. I agree too that Finding Nouf was a well-written and absorbing book.

  4. An interesting writer. I've never read a book set in Saudia Arabia but her knowledge of the place would make for an interesting read. Thanks for the read.

  5. Margaret: Thanks for the comment. I was partly drawn to the book by its setting. It is the only mystery I have read that is placed in Saudi Arabia.

  6. Maxine: Thanks for the comment. I think you would enjoy her books. There are so few Muslims in Saskatchewan I do not see any women wearing the burqa.

  7. Margot: Thanks for the comment. A century ago I could see Ferraris writing memoirs of her adventures in the Middle East.

  8. Clarissa: Thanks for commenting. You feel you are in Saudi Arabia while reading the book.

  9. I read this book and Ferraris' second book set in Saudi Arabia -- City of Veils.

    That book delves much more into the denial of civil liberties and basic rights to women. Additionally, it delivers some shocking information about the criminal (in)justice system.

    As an attorney, you would be interested in and probably shocked at the denial of democratic rights to criminal suspects.

    When I finished reading City of Veils, I thought I lived in an enlightened society in comparison.

    There are still public beheadings there, for one thing.

    Women still have no rights. Those who try to drive are arrested. That's just the tip of the iceberg.

    And the right to object to wages or working conditions? Not really. Or demonstrate? Nope.

    Interesting the discussion of the burqa. I'd think women should decide that for themselves.

    In New York, although I've seen many Muslim women wearing head scarvesm long sleeves and often, long jackets or robes, I've never seen anyone fully covered with faces hidden, as a burqa would do.

    I'd look forward to reading Ferraris' book three, but I had to get some distance after the brutality of City of Veils, especially in the "justice" system.

    Would like to see your review of it, especially with your legal experience.

  10. I should qualify my comments about the justice system in the U.S., as I don't agree with the death penalty, life sentences or adult prisons for children, three-strike laws, mandatory sentencing, denial of legal services for poor people, etc.

    Even so, I was stunned by events in City of Veils.

  11. kathy d.: Thanks for the comments. I will be looking for City of Veils. I was surprised to learn from a file that debtors in the Middle East can be imprisoned under Sharia law for not paying debts. It does not sound like there is much of a role for defence counsel in Saudi Arabia. In the U.S. I wonder how many people America can put into prison. It is leading the world.

  12. I can't even think much about the prison system here, the number of people in it, while there aren't enough jobs and education is becoming more of a luxury -- yet more prisons are built.

    The privatization of prisons is increasing the hardships.

    Right now, there are several lawsuits against solitary confinement, used in many prisons for long terms.

    I'll look for your review of City of Veils, and yes, I concur that being a defense attorney in Saudi Arabia may not be much of a career.