Genre: historical mystery
This is the first in a new mystery series featuring a female Parsi lawyer at Mystry Law, a law firm in Bombay, India during the 1920s.
Having liked Sujata Massey's unusual and suspenseful Rei Shimura Mysteries set in Japan, I was eager to read her new novel featuring a female lawyer/sleuth in Bombay in the 1920s when there were so few professional career women. Perveen Mistry works in her father's law firm and was entrusted with the legal papers regarding the inheritance of three widows of a Muslim mill owner. Since they are in purdah, screened from the view of the public, Perveen, as a woman, is the ideal lawyer to help the widows. Complications involving a male guardian of the women arise and threaten the women's future and livelihood. Perveen steps in to protect the women but events lead to tension and murder.
I enjoyed the historical and cultural aspects of The Widows of Malabar Hill as well as the character of Perveen, a young woman trying to find her way in a patriarchal society. Perveenis is modeled on India's first woman lawyer, Cornelia Sorabji, a Parsi who practised in the 1920s . The plot is well structured and the book seems to be the start of a very promising historical mystery series.
A Stranger's Gaze
Bombay February 1921
On the morning Perveen saw the stranger, they'd almost collided.
Parveen had come upon him half-hidden in the Portico entrance to Mistry House. The unshaven, middle-aged man appeared as if he had slept for several days and nights in his broadcloth shirt and the grimy cotton dhoti that hung in a thousand creases from his waist to his ankles. His small, squinting eyes were tired, and he exuded a rank odor of sweat mixed with betel nut.
A visitor to Mistry Law this early was rare....
It felt almost treacherous to be in the car with such a man, because Perveen had been to gatherings with Indians seeking self-rule. In Oxford and London, she and Alice had attended a few such lectures together.
Thanks to Soho Press for an advance edition for review.
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