A Murder at Malabar Hill – Book Review
Author: Sujata Massey
Genre: Mystery, historical fiction, India
My rating: ★★★★☆
Release Date: Published 7th January, 2020 by Allen & Unwin
Format: Paperback, 385 pages
What did I think?
Perveen Mistry is Bombay’s first female lawyer, working in her father’s office, Mistry Law. This was a terrific read covering two time periods – 1917 and 1921 – and doing it well. The novel is a murder mystery and one that kept me guessing until the end and was an easy four stars.
The Indian setting – in Bombay and Calcutta – I enjoyed thoroughly because I’ve visited India. Despite the time difference (I went much later than the 1920s) in many ways it was a trip down memory lane. I think readers who haven’t travelled there will get a taste for what it is like and enjoy learning about some of the cultural aspects presented. The food, the style of buildings and furnishings, the people, the families, the religions and customs.
Massey is clearly a great storyteller. She gave lots of background and detail without so much that I noticed it and griped. Perveen was written with a gentle, respectful strength that was easy to get behind. Sincere, honest and plucky – I loved her!
There were times I felt angry at the lack of power women had then, as did Perveen herself. Her treatment at the university was infuriating, for example. I have to say that the intricacies of dating and marriage in early 1900s India seemed a lot to handle, and the novel introduced other loaded cultural topics such as separation, divorce, seclusion during menstruation, and ‘purdah’ which is the seclusion of women to life within the home. It all added to the story.
Thankfully, Massey’s brilliance in weaving mystery throughout the rest of the background and drama stopped me from getting stuck on the unfairnesses. There were some cute and amusing parts too, like Perveen naming a police official “Sergeant Biscuit” after he rudely ate some sweets she had brought along for a man being held at the station.
Near the end, I began to worry whether I would be happy with how the story was wrapped up. I needn’t have worried, though. The ending was very satisfying and fitting.
This is not Sujata Massey’s only book – there is another in the Perveen Mistry series, and also a series set in Japan called Rei Shimura. My understanding is that A Murder at Malabar Hill is a re-release of The Widows of Malabar Hill originally released in 2018.
Without a doubt I’ll be looking to read more by this author.
I read this uncorrected proof thanks to the publisher, Allen and Unwin, and the author. The book was given in return for an honest review.