"Kingdom of Strangers", by Zoe Ferraris

Kingdom of Strangers - Zoë Ferraris

Book 3, in the Katya Hijazi series

This is another unusual and intricate mystery giving us an insider’s view into the customs of Saudi inhabitants. It delves into the heart and lives of women in one of the most mysterious and closed societies of the world. Ms. Ferraris has created a winning combination and has given us a nail- biting and straightforward criminal investigation saga. Book 3 is part of a series featuring Saudi forensic technician Katya Hijazi, however, it can be equally enjoyed as a standalone fiction.

“Kingdom of Strangers” revolves around human trafficking and the brutal treatment of some migrant workers who are brought in from the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Indonesia to perform tasks the Saudis are reluctant to do.

It opens with the discovery of 19 female bodies in the desert outside Jeddah their hands have all been severed to make a strong point and make them even harder to identify. Lt. Col. Insp. Ibrahim Zahrani is assigned as the lead investigator to unravel this mystery. This is a case with such a magnitude it can make or break a person’s career.

In a sub-plot, Ibrahim is distracted by a mystery close to home, his mistress Sabria, also a former undercover operative has suddenly disappeared. As a respected Saudi resident he cannot show his feelings or his concerns without attracting attention to their relationship. His only hope is to enlist the help of Katya Hijazi, a trusted colleague, who thrives on dealing in the shadows of the Saudi justice system. She is not afraid to extend her boundaries of responsibility and risk sanctions in order to get answers. All through the story she navigates the fine line of disobedience and compliance while working on both of Ibrahim’s investigations.

The strong characterisation is the driving force behind this well written and entertaining plot. I always had a sweet spot for mysteries that are set in different parts of the world and created around customs that I am not familiar with. Ms. Ferraris is a remarkable storyteller and one of my favourite authors. This is an exotic mystery well worth reading.