The Jealous, book two of the “Sufi Mystery Quartet”, by Laury Silvers, returns readers to the streets of circa 900 AD Baghdad. It’s among the dusty streets of the city that Silvers brings both her characters and her story to life.
In The Jealous an esteemed religious scholar dies under mysterious circumstances. His family is quick to lay the blame at the feet of one of his slaves – saying she cursed him and set a jinn on him to beat and then kill him. While the police investigating the crime are divided about the truth of the tale, when the slave confesses to the crime the senior officer takes it as a fete accompli.
However, as he and his junior begin questioning the slave they begin to have doubts as to the veracity of her confession. While they are obligated to pass it along to their superiors, they decide to investigate further.
When the doctor who examined the scholar when he was admitted into the hospital raised the possibility of poison being used, especially one that could induce hallucinations, it becomes clear there are more factors at work than a slave girl’s hatred of her master.
The Jealous features the same fascinating cast of characters who appeared in The Lover, the first book in the series. Zaytuna, Tein, Mustafa, Ammar, and Saliha are all drawn into the case on one level or another. Of course Ammar, as the investigator in the Grave Crimes unit, and his old friend Tein who serves as his second, are involved – they were assigned to the case.
However, as Tein’s doubts about the slave’s guilt deepens his twin sister Zaytuan, their childhood friend and scholar Mustafa, and Zaytuna’s best friend Saliha are drawn into the investigation as well. Mustafa had heard of the deceased before and how the slave had taken him to religious court for his raping her while she was trying to pray.
Which of course is a motive for killing someone. With Mustafa and Zaytuna trying to investigate among the scholars, Tein and Saliha head out into the streets of city to see what they can learn among the herbalists and brothels/gaming dens.
While their searches among the herbalists and apothecaries to find if anyone connected to the murdered man has been buying the suspected poison belladonna isn’t very helpful, they discover some interesting facts about the supposed holy man in the brothels. For not only did he frequent one establishment in particular, he had also accumulated gambling debts there as well.
As in her previous book Silvers does a wonderful job of integrating facts about life in Baghdad 900 AD with her story. In The Jealous we learn about the ins and outs of both the religious and secular justice systems. Like every system there are flaws and it can be abused, but it does its best to do right by both the victims of crime and to give people a fair trial.
However, where Silvers really excels is in creating fascinating characters. While Saliha was introduced in the first book here she is brought to the forefront. Like her friend Zaytuna she is a strong, opinionated woman who won’t play by men’s rules.
After surviving an abusive marriage she has vowed never to allow a man to control her again. It doesn’t stop her from flirting or having relationships with them, but only under her rules.
The combination of Zaytuna and her questioning the status quo about what is acceptable considering the treatment of women makes for great reading. While they might have different approaches to life, they share the opinion that just because a women is married it shouldn’t make her somebody’s property.
The Jealous is the second instalment in Silver’s “Sufi Mystery Quartet” and its every bit as good as the first book. These are beautiful, and intriguing, stories told with loving detail. A great combination of fascinating reading and compelling mystery that will keep you glued to the page.