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A Murder at Malabar Hill (Perveen Mistry Book 1)
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Archive: Other Books > (Poll Ballot) A Murder at Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

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Tien (tiensblurb) | 720 comments Note: above is the edition I read but original title is "The Widows of Malabar Hill"

There are certain countries I favour for novel settings and India being one of them. However, I do not like to read too many as they are usually quite heartbreaking to read, for example A Fine Balance which I read 10+ years ago and still haunted me to this day. Being a mystery lover, too, I just could not walk away from this novel.

A Murder at Malabar Hill follows Perveen Mistry as she conducts her business being the first female lawyer in 1921 Bombay. Even as she works in her father's firm with the full support of her family (one of the best families I've ever read in fiction!), she is mostly working behind the scenes (contracts & wills).

One of her father's client has passed away without a will and his wives live in purdah necessitating the engagement of a house agent to act on their behalf. Paperworks sent to Perveen, however, raised some interesting questions and as a woman, Perveen can actually interview the ladies. In doing so, unfortunately, she has opened a can of worms... Worse than that, a murder! Yet again, she's the only woman permitted to enter the zenana to question the ladies. This time, she's actually courting danger.

In between chapters of the 'present', there were chapters relating to her life 3 years ago. I didn't like these chapters because I never liked reading about the way women were treated then. And it wasn't just the men, it's how women treat others too which just makes it sadder. Plus, it was rather disruptive to the 'present' narrative. Even if there are only 3 years difference in time, this just highlighted again how amazing the Mistry family is especially Pappa Mistry.

A Murder at Malabar Hill is an enjoyable historical mystery set in an exotic place and time featuring an intelligent & courageous female protagonist who seeks a better future for her country and also her sex. I find the novel to be quite respectful about choice - bad or good, it is the individual's right to make and no other. Best of all, that 'girl-power' moment at the end.

Thanks to Allen & Unwin for copy of book in exchange of honest review

message 2: by NancyJ (last edited Jan 25, 2020 02:15PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 5231 comments I read this a year ago with a bookclub and I loved it. Perveen is a great character, and I loved her friends and family as well. I have the second book in the series, and I hope to get to it soon. I agree that India is a great setting for fiction and non-fiction alike. I was sad last year that it wasn't picked for our horizons challenge. There are many books that I enjoy, but forget quickly. This one is unforgettable to me.

I had never really understood what it meant to live in Purda, so that part was particularly interesting, though I get the impression that the modern usage of the term isn't as strict as it was in this book 100 years ago. I still have a vivid view in my head of how they organized the house, split down the middle.

I thought the back story added a lot of important cultural information to the story, and to our understanding of Perveen. It shows an interesting dynamic that is still going on today with mothers in law. (view spoiler) Papa Mistry was indeed brilliant in how he handled that situation.

I'm still laughing over the fact that someone gave this book a "Disney" tag. It's even more of a stretch than the book given the "coffee" tag.

Theresa | 6702 comments I love this series! While I agree that flipping between present and the back story was disruptive to plotting, it was setting a stage that will be important going forward, not just understanding India at the time, but also Purveen.

Purveen is based on 2 women attorneys in India at the time who were the actual first women lawyers there. The author also has been given tremendous access to original source materials, including case files from that time. I have the second waiting to be read, The Satapur Moonstone. Maybe I should see if it is shelved Disney!🤣

message 4: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (joabroda1) | 7492 comments ...or maybe politics

Theresa | 6702 comments Joanne wrote: "...or maybe politics"

Probably as most books seem to be shelved politics or comedy.

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