Review: A Murder at Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

 

Title: A Murder on Malabar Hill {Perveen Mistry #1}

Author: Sujata Massey

Published: January 7th 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read January 2020 courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

My Thoughts:

A Murder on Malabar Hill is an engaging historical mystery novel, the first in a new series from Sujata Massey, which has won several awards, most notably the Mary Higgins Clarke Award (2019), and the Agatha Award for the Best Historical Novel (2018) (under the title of The Widows of Malabar Hill).

The series features Perveen Massey, a young woman in her mid twenties who is India’s first female solicitor, working alongside her father, a respected lawyer. Massey draws inspiration for her lead character from two ‘real life’ women, Cornelia Sorabji of Poona who was the first woman to read law at Oxford and sit the British law exam in 1892, and Mithan Tata Lam of Bombay, who was the first woman admitted to the Bombay Bar in 1923.

The story shifts between two timelines, one of which fleshes out Perveen’s personal history, from her family background, to her experiences at Oxford University, to her short-lived marriage.

The second timeline focuses on the murder at Malabar Hill, an upscale neighbourhood in Bombay, in the household of three Purdahnashin widows. When their wealthy husband, Omar Farid, dies, his wives, Razia, Sakina, and Mumtaz, and their children who choose to live a secluded life (known as Purdah), are at the mercy of their household agent, Mr. Mukri. While finalising Farid’s estate Perveen notices some discrepancies and as a female solicitor she is uniquely placed to speak to the widows directly to discover what they understand of their rights. Immediately following her first visit, which infuriates Mukri, the agent is murdered, and Perveen fears the women could be next. I enjoyed the mystery, which has a cozy feel and a ‘locked room’ aspect, though it wasn’t terribly difficult to solve.

The physical setting of A Murder in Malabar Hill – primarily the wealthy neighbourhoods of Bombay in the 1920’s – is interesting, but it was what I learned about the city’s social, political and cultural milieu I found fascinating. Massey touches on a number of issues such as the varied religious beliefs within Indian society, including Parsi (Zoroastrianism), Muslim, and Hindi; the rights, or lack thereof, of women; and the conflict surrounding English rule, as well as specific cultural practices such as arranged marriages, dowry contracts, and Purdah. The details seem authentic and are woven neatly into the plot.

Well crafted and appealing, highlighting an interesting historical period and an exotic (to me) culture, A Murder at Malabar Hill is an enjoyable mystery novel, and I look forward to reading the next.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD $29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Indiebound

 

US Cover

15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. curlygeek04
    Jan 14, 2020 @ 14:06:07

    I really enjoyed this book – there’s a sequel out that I hope to read soon!

    Like

    Reply

  2. allthebookblognamesaretaken
    Jan 14, 2020 @ 15:06:31

    I like a mystery that has a little more oomph than a cozy, but is not always a super intricate thriller. This seems like it fits the bill, I may be looking into this one. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  3. Carol
    Jan 14, 2020 @ 18:56:34

    I read The Widows of Malabar Hill…. this is the same book, right?

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  4. Meggy | Chocolate'n'Waffles
    Jan 14, 2020 @ 22:15:30

    Great review! I love it when books give us a taste of what a city is like in all aspects

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  5. Kay
    Jan 15, 2020 @ 01:35:28

    I’m planning on reading this one as I’ve had several friends read it and enjoy it. Plus it has won or been nominated for a bunch of awards. I had read some earlier books by the author, the Rei Shumura series, set in Japan. I liked those and bet I’ll like this one too.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  6. Lisa
    Jan 15, 2020 @ 05:27:17

    This really sounds great! I don’t read a lot of mysteries, but this sounds different and really appealing. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  7. Helen Murdoch
    Jan 15, 2020 @ 05:40:32

    I love reading book set outside my home country of the US so this one seems especially good. Thank you for the review.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  8. Athira
    Jan 15, 2020 @ 14:14:41

    I don’t usually read many cozy mysteries but the location and the female lead at a time when very few women had that privilege makes me want to read it. Interestingly, reading your review of this book made me think of Girl Waits With Gun.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  9. 1girl2manybooks
    Jan 16, 2020 @ 12:02:33

    I’m just about to read this one, good to see you enjoyed it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  10. Mystica
    Jan 18, 2020 @ 18:29:20

    Tried to get this one and failed! Keeping it on my TBR list eventually.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  11. Davida Chazan
    Jan 19, 2020 @ 18:44:54

    I don’t usually read series, but I’ll keep this one in mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  12. Verushka, an editor (@SydneyEditor1)
    Jan 19, 2020 @ 21:29:06

    AHHH, YES, wasn’t it just so good?!? I enjoyed this book so much — more than I thought I would.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  13. Trackback: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon | book'd out

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