Murder in Medieval Baghdad: Scholar Laury Silvers Publishes Debut Mystery Novel

July 2, 2019 by Rachel Lott

Recently retired DSR instructor Laury Silvers has released a mystery novel involving medieval Baghdad, murder, and Sufi mysticism.

Described by reviewers as beautiful, historically rich, and attentive to the smallest detail, Silvers’s The Lover follows the ascetic Muslim Zaytuna through Baghdad during the height of the Abbasid revival. The book is told from the perspective of the city's poorest citizens, introducing readers to the "great Sufi mystics, washerwomen, Hadith scholars, tavern owners, slaves, corpsewashers, police, and children indentured to serve in the homes of the wealthy."

Silvers brings 30 years of studying Islam and Sufism to the story of Zaytuna.

Her transition to fiction-writing began with her interest in female Muslim mystics, whose worship was shaped by social limits and realities often quite unlike their male counterparts'.

“As I studied their lives,” Silvers says, “I wondered and imagined more than I could argue for as a historian. I thought about the women of great spiritual vocation who wandered the countryside lost in ecstasy and who would have faced the inevitable violence of being a woman alone on the road. What would it be like to be the child of such violence and to have a mother whose love of God eclipses everything, including her love for her own children? How would these children survive their mother’s sanctity? How would they understand God?"

Reviewers especially note the realism and nuance of Silvers’s characters as they come to terms with their pasts while investigating the death of a young servant boy.

Silvers is currently working on a sequel to The Lover which will involve Baghdad’s legal system, medical practices, and even magic. She hopes to complete a five-book mystery series on the medieval city.

The official website for The Lover is