Book review: ‘A Thousand Veils’ an unevenly-paced thriller |

Book review: ‘A Thousand Veils’ an unevenly-paced thriller

Charlie Owen
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

VAIL, Colorado ” Nothing would be the same for Charles Sherman once Fatima Shihabi entered his life. Sherman, a workaholic corporate lawyer, sits in his comfortable Wall Street office high above and far removed from the outside world below. His patient and loving girlfriend is on the brink of leaving him because he refuses to leave his work at home and constantly abandons plans with her for his all-consuming career. But Sherman hides in his career to escape persistent images of friends and strangers burning alive in or falling from the top of the World Trade Center buildings after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, a fate from which he only narrowly escaped. He hides in the only world he can make sense of anymore.

But Sherman’s world of company mergers and expensive suits begins to fall apart when he gets a call from an old lawyer friend asking for his help with a very special case ” Fatima Shihabi, an Iraqi citizen hunted by her government, is in danger of being tortured and killed if she is found. Shihabi’s journalistic integrity and free-spirited poetry have made her the target of Iraq’s secret police; the only thing standing between her and certain death is Sherman and his connections with other lawyers, both American and international. To add heat to the fire, she’s left her young daughter behind in Iraq under the protection of her brother, but Shihabi knows that the Iraqi government will eventually kill her whole family in an attempt to lure her into captivity.

Sherman is asked to do everything possible to make sure this unknown woman and her family is given safe passage to America, which he reluctantly does. As time goes on, however, Sherman slowly invests himself emotionally and physically into Shihabi’s case until he becomes obsessed with her survival.

Most of “A Thousand Veils” takes place between the one year anniversary of 9/11 and America’s invasion of Iraq. Cultures clash as Sherman, a confident and efficient Westerner, butts heads with the proud beauty, exposing the prejudices and pre-conceived notions that even the forward-thinking people of the world can harbor in their souls.

The novel goes from a crawling law story to a fast-paced spy thriller when Sherman and Shihabi find themselves outrunning Iraqi agents in France, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia and eventually her hometown of Najaf.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

If anything, “A Thousand Veils” will remind us of how good we actually have it in America, especially because of the press. There was no free press in Iraq under Saddam’s rule and “A Thousand Veils” goes a long way to show the kind of cruelty and malice that dissidents faced at the hands of such dictatorships. Author D.J. Murphy notes that his book is based partly on true events. I certainly hope it’s not the part in the book when Shihabi is tortured with poisonous snakes and deadly insects at the hands of Saddam’s minions.

At times “A Thousand Veils” drags on with introspective moments in Sherman’s mind and long conversations between characters. Some moments in the story stretch the bounds of reality by almost making Sherman into a superhero, but it’s these times when the tension is at its tightest, giving the global adventure a feel somewhere between a Tom Clancy and John Grisham thriller. Anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of Eastern cultures or who likes international intrigue will find more than enough reasons to enjoy “A Thousand Veils.”

High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2939 or

Support Local Journalism