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A Murder at Malabar Hill

This is an absolute gem of a novel, one not to be missed. It is a murder mystery that fans of Kinsey Milhone and Phryne Fisher will enjoy. Although a murder is committed and some life-threatening moments occur, Miss Perveen Mistry’s cool head and intelligent problem solving, ensure clever outcomes. The young lawyer is the first female in legal practice, and she is determined to raise awareness of the rights of women.

The story is set in India and there are time slips between 1916 and 1921. These serve to give the reader an understanding of events in Perveen’s past life which explain her compassion for other women. Perveen lives in Bombay but moves to Calcutta for about a year. Following that, she moves to Oxford where she studied law. Her current situation shows her working for her father, who is a senior lawyer in the Bombay Courts.

Perveen is given a case relating to the will of a deceased, wealthy man. The complexities of the religious and cultural standards need minute scrutiny and, it is here that she finds discrepancies. On approaching the three wives of the deceased man, and explaining these unusual issues, a plot is uncovered. A murder is committed, but by whom, and for what reason? The wives need protection, as do their children if the murderer has come from outside the closed house.

The nature of various Religious groups is explained. Some customs such a “Binamazi” or locking away women during menstruation was also still practised in some areas. This makes for compelling reading although it does not intrude on the story. At the end there is a Glossary to assist with names of food, people, and clothing. The text flows easily and the story is gripping enough to make reading a pleasure.

The story itself is a celebration of India’s first women lawyer, Cornelia Sorabji. She read law at Oxford and was the first woman to sit the British law exams in 1892. Perveen also shows what it was like to work as a female solicitor in British ruled India. The concluding chapter shows the lawyer and her friend going to a famous Hotel for a drink. They are refused alcohol. When summoning the Manager and showing him her card, Perveen presents an argument that is flawless. She and her friend Alice are then able to sit back and enjoy a gin together.

A most enjoyable story, and the author has delighted readers with the notion that there will be more challenges for Perveen ahead in the next book in the series.

Author Sujata Massey
Publisher Allen and Unwin
ISBN 9781760529406
Distributor Allen and Unwin
Released January 2020