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Warning: This is a cozy mystery. This genre is an acquired taste.
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Read my review for Murder in Plain Sight(book 1)
In one sentence this novel explores the corrupt relationship between American oil magnates and Algerian /Arab regimes. Anyone with an open mind will find Saffron and Seaweed chilling for the underlying implications of the plot. In some instances, during Summer’s and Jerry’s investigation into the murder, a series of dialogues with witnesses are loaded with symbolism on our society, interracial relationships and racial and class separation.
The victim is an activist against the violation of human rights of the Algerian people, Yvonne Abaddi, her father is an Algerian diplomat and her mother is a former French Singer. In a bid to uncover the murderer, Jerry and Summer unearth a conspiracy that bleeds completely, it’s a conspiracy that goes from the lowest man to the highest man. Yvonne’s body has disappeared, the coroner who examined the body is missing, the police chief is denying the existence of the body, there is an attempted murder on Jerry and Summer and there are forces at play that are trying to put a gag on everyone, the photographer and the caterer at the wedding and guests present on the boat on the day of the wedding when Yvonne was murdered.
Nikki Broadwell leaves us with enough knowledge to understand slices of the whole scope of the picture. When you think about the role of oil in the world and how it affects everything, it is disconcerting that human trafficking flourishes and yet few are jailed. I feel like Senator Hughes was only brought to justice because he made the mistake of raping Yvonne. The greater truth of how many people are involved remains but it is quite obvious that Senator Hughes did not orchestrate all this by himself. And so many people small or big know about these atrocities and yet do nothing. For example Berkant Abbadi, an Algerian diplomat, Yvonne’s father choses to look the other way because his job is to maintain relations between the Algerian, French and American governments until the problem hits close to home. The Libyan government is implicated in helping Senator Hughes cover his crimes. And Celia’s words to Summer I think mirrors what most people think well if it doesn’t affect me personally, I don’t care and I don’t have to do anything about it.
And this young woman, Yvonne once she became aware of these forces in society motivated by greed at work, that act against the best interest of the average Algerian/citizen, she changed her life. And it is obvious she was way a bit over her head, not in an unreasonable way and she was also in a position to push her agenda in as much as possible.
The novel touches on interracial marriages. For a long time Berkant could not marry Adrienne, Yvonne’s’ mother because of her profession as a singer because his culture/religion would not allow it. And having a child out-of-wedlock is not a Muslim thing so in the end Adrienne decided to marry him seeing how strongly her husband felt about it but the marriage does not last because through Summer we learn that the differences in responses to events that occurred perhaps before and in or after the investigation from both Berkant and Adrienne due to their cultural differences and the verbal abuse from her husband caused her to file for a divorce. Muslims abusing their wives whether be it verbally, emotionally or physically might be what mainstream media wants us to believe but it not right to categorize a particular group of people. I think some of Berkant’s frustration with Adrienne might have been a result of Adrienne not conforming to or understanding of Berkant’s culture.
A statement from one of Yvonne’s friends made me pose and think. Towards the end of the book, we learn that Ahmed, Yvonne’s guard, a former Algerian spy with links to Al-Qaeda had been in a relationship with and had proposed to her before her murder. Celia, Yvonne’s friend who had grown up with her and they had gone to school together said Berkant must be disappointed because Ahmed was a ‘raghead’ which in itself is a derogatory word. Summer goes on to remind her that Yvonne’s father is Muslim. It just feels like they went out of their way to accept Yvonne and not appear racist because her father and mother were rich. Most of the time bi-racial children are identified by the most dominant gene from both parents, whether Yvonne looked more like her father or her mother is not disclosed but I would imagine that growing up with people who discriminated against her father’s race but yet benefited financially from exploiting them might have made her feel strongly about defending their human rights in spite of the dangers involved.
Snippets of Jerry’s past are revealed. At nineteen he is arrested for marijuana possession and ends up going out with the 30-year-old lawyer that represented him, Maria Barbieri. It just seems wrong. I don’t want to play morality police but even if Jerry had made advances towards Maria, she was old enough to know better. First their relationship was an ethical problem for the Legal profession and second she completely victimized him because Jerry was emerging into adulthood and at a vulnerable place in his life not to mention that could have been mentally damaging if anything had gone wrong. I am not against older women dating younger men but I think it depends on how old is young.
Summer’s jealousy of Maria is perfectly normal in my opinion; if someone tells me they have never been jealous I would say “what?”. And Jerry’s disappearing or no contact act at the end left me with a question mark.
The identity of the killer is surprising but considering his criminal past and his association with the other culprits suspected of human trafficking, it just makes perfect sense.
Loved this second installment, it’s better than the first. Highly recommended.