The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

Publication date, January 9th, 2018, by Soho Press.

Summary: Perveen Mistry assists her father in the family law firm. As the first – and only – female solicitor in 1920’s Bombay, she isn’t allowed to present cases at court. That is the purview of the male barristers, but there is plenty of work for her to do handling wills and eThe Widows of Malabar Hill.jpgstates.

For many years, the Mistry Law Firm has represented the interests of Mr. Farid and his wives. The wives are purdanashin, which means they live in seclusion and have no contact with men outside their own household except to speak with them through a screen. After Mr. Farid dies, the Mistry Law firm must negotiate the rather complex terms of the will. Perveen is uniquely qualified to work with the Farid wives. She is well-versed in estate law and as a female, she can be granted direct access to the Muslim women in the compound.

When the women’s appointed guardian, Mr. Mukri, is found murdered, Perveen’s legal concerns expand to the safety of the three wives and their children. The male detectives aren’t allowed in the women’s area of the home, so she becomes their eyes and ears.

But Perveen has safety concerns of her own. She recently spotted a man in town who resembles her abusive husband. Perveen escaped from Cyrus and his family four years previously but because of Parsi law, was unable to secure more than a legal separation. She is worried that she may be abducted back to Calcutta.

Comments: The Widows of Malabar Hill is rich in atmosphere and history. The Mistry family are Parsis, descendants of immigrants to India from Persia, current day Iran. They maintain their own unique culture and religion in the predominantly Hindu and Muslim nation of India. They worked well with the British colonial government and became wealthy and well educated.  This background makes Perveen a believable protagonist.

This novel is the first in a new series by Sujata Massey. If you like multi-cultural mystery fiction, look for her other books, the Rei Shimura novels.

5 books for a thoroughly engrossing, well researched novel.

5 out of 5 books