04 Jun / The Widows of Malabar Hill [A Mystery of 1920s India, Book 1] by Sujata Massey [in Library Journal]
Versatile, charming, culturally well-matched Soneela Nankani auspiciously voices Sujata Massey’s (“Rei Shimura” mysteries) promising new series set in early 20th-century colonial India. Here the author introduces feisty Perveen Mistry, India’s first female solicitor in 1921. Perveen’s debut dovetails her challenging career journey – from facing aggressive sexism in Bombay’s Government Law School to an impetuous marriage to Oxford University – with her first active client case beyond paperwork assisting her esteemed solicitor father.
Entering the home of a recently deceased, wealthy Muslim merchant, Perveen meets his three widows – her gender granting her face-to-face access – who live in seclusion, separated but ruled over by their late husband’s appointed guardian Faisal Mukri. Something is amiss in the grieving home: soon enough, Mukri lies dead and Perveen is the first to find him. Solving his murder will require careful negotiation through rigid gender roles, confronting local and imperial British police, assistance from a former Oxford classmate who happens to be a titled English diplomat’s daughter, even surviving a violent kidnapping.
Verdict: Meticulously researched – Perveen is inspired by two real-life pioneering Indian female lawyers – Massey’s newest endeavor, vibrantly enhanced by Nankani’s narration, should prove broadly popular with cosmopolitan audiences.