When Rania Bakara, Palestine’s only female police detective in the northern West Bank, discovers the body of a foreign woman in fields near her village, no one seems to want her to look too deeply into what’s happened. Instead of leaving it to the Israeli police department, which takes over the investigation, Bakara continues to dig for clues about who was responsible for the woman’s death. It is no easy task; not only does she have to work within the constraints of the Israeli occupation, but as a women she also suffers from the ingrained patriarchy and the “old boys’ network” of her professional superiors. As a wife and mother she must also accept her in-laws’ disapproval of her choice of occupation.
With the investigation getting more complicated, she enlists the help of Jewish-American Chloe, a pro-Palestinian activist living in Azzawiya, a village in the West Bank. Drawn to the murder case by the arrest of a friend, she helps Rania with the parts of the investigation that the detective’s Palestinian identity prevent her from carrying out. Chloe is struggling with her own issues as she often finds herself under close scrutiny in the village that she desperately wants to accept her. The two women thus share one thing in common; the suspicious gaze of the communities in which they live.
Using a variety of unorthodox methods, Rania and Chloe hunt for answers, leading them to question shady characters and challenge people who wield considerable power. Both encounter precarious situations: Rania finds herself trying to strike up a friendship with the teenage daughter of a settler high up in the Israeli military, and Chloe searches for answers with the young women caught up in Israel’s large sex-trafficking network. As they delve deeper and uncover some uncomfortable truths, their lives are in jeopardy. The two fiery women must combine determination, stubbornness and courage to continue their search for the killer, which will mean freedom for the man they believe has been wrongly accused of the crime.
Throughout the unfolding drama, the author introduces the reader to many key themes in the Palestine-Israel conflict, giving an insight into the daily reality of life under occupation, from checkpoints, home demolitions and settler violence, to ordinary family life in Palestine. Raphael also touches on a number of other issues, which seem unconnected, such as Eastern European sex trafficking, female empowerment and lesbian love affairs. However, she manages to link them together in this gripping murder mystery that, once picked up, is hard to put down.