Finding Nouf uncovers lively discussion

Although Gary would disagree, I always have a hard time finding mysteries to discuss with my group even though they ask for them to be placed on our annual list. My difficulty comes in getting beyond the typical discussion of “when did you realize you figured it out?”  These sorts of discussions involve too much plot summation and not enough conversation for my tastes.finding_nouf_l

But Finding Nouf, a debut novel by Zoe Ferraris, and an Alex Award winner in 2009, is not that kind of mystery. Recently a small but feisty group gathered at The Kansas City Public Library to sift through the clues strewn about a desert setting. Very little discussion centered on “who/why dun it.” Everyone was more interested in the setting, characters, culture, and conflicts.

Finding Nouf is the first in a projected series featuring an unusual duo of detectives. Nayir, a devout Palestinian, and Katya, one of the few Saudi female forensic specialists in the state medical examiner’s office.

The title is the first topic the group tackled. What and who is to be found and doing the finding? One of the readers pointed out that when the novel opens, people are searching for the missing Nouf, then searching for reasons for why she ran away, and ultimately searching for the true person underneath the veil. Participants were fascinated with the way the author carefully revealed one layer after another of Nouf’s character in keeping with each tidbit that led Nayir and Katya closer to an answer.

All the readers were fascinated with the descriptions of the desert and the Saudi culture. One reader even pointed out the subtle undercurrent of racism which led to a lively discussion of the outsider nature of the two amateur detectives and how this helps and hinders their investigation.

Groups looking for a mystery with plenty of talking points will enjoy Finding Nouf. It’s a thoughtful literary mystery with developed characters, a compelling plot, and fascinating place. Look for a reading guide here.

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About the Author:

Kaite Mediatore Stover refuses to give up her day job as director of readers' services for The Kansas City Public Library to read tarot cards professionally or be the merch girl/roadie for her husband's numerous bands. Follow her on Twitter at @MarianLiberryan.

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