Kingdom of Strangers
When a bedouin retrieving a sheep in the desert finds a female body buried in a sand dune and the coroner's main concern is that no man should commit a "virtue crime" by touching the corpse, we know we're not in Kansas anymore. In fact, we're in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with Katya Hijazi, a lab technician whose lofty career aspirations hardly befit a pious Saudi woman. In Zoë Ferraris's third Hijazi mystery, Kingdom of Strangers, the makeshift grave actually contains 19 bodies, all of them women, mostly Asian immigrants, shot execution-style and missing their hands. The suspenseful unraveling of clues dating back ten years mixes with an insightful look at Saudi social politics. Example: The police inspector, Ibrahim Zahrani, confides to Katya that he has been conducting an adulterous affair (punishable by public beheading) with Sabria Gampon, the beautiful Filipina housemaid who has disappeared. Meanwhile, Katya is ambivalent about committing to her fiancé, the devout Nayir, who is struggling to accept her unconventional behavior. Thanks to Ferraris's watchful eye, we see how both men and women are isolated within their culture and how severely they're punished when they break the code.
— Louisa Ermelino