The Widows of Malabar Hill

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 01 Mar 2018

Member Reviews

I think this book is the start of a new series—or anyway, I hope it is, because I enjoyed it a lot. It’s set in 1920s Bombay, and centers on a young woman who is Bombay's first female lawyer (working for her awesome supportive lawyer father). Her gender comes in handy when some discrepancies pop up concerning a Muslim estate whose three widows live in purda (seclusion)—and then there’s a murder. This is all interspersed with flashbacks to a dark time in her past. She also has an English best friend from Oxford who is a not-so-secret lesbian. It’s one of those mysteries that is just as much about the characters and settings as it is the actual mystery plot, and I hope to see more of it...

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It is 1921 and the Indian subcontinent is experiencing change as agitation for independence from Britain grows stronger and many traditions are challenged. In multicultural Bombay, modern times are personified in the city's first female attorney, Oxford-educated Perveen Mistry, a member of the minority Parsi community. Although employed by her father's law firm, the young woman is not permitted to argue cases in court and works primarily behind the scenes, until she is asked to assist more directly with a case involving three recently bereaved Muslim women who live secluded in their home according to the strictures of purdah. Her own horrific marital history gives Perveen useful...

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This wonderful mystery set in 1920's Bombay, is on my Keeper Shelf.   Perveen Mistry, a female lawyer in her father's firm, investigates a suspicious will on behalf of three widows.  As a murder is solved, details of Perveen's tragic marriage are revealed through flashbacks, and the terrible treatment of women is highlighted.  I was transported to 1920's India and call myself very fortunate that I didn't have to take up residence there!  If you care about women's rights issues, this novel is a must read.  Please quickly bring on the next Perveen Mistry story!
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THE WIDOWS OF MALABAR HILL by Sujata Massey is a mystery story that appealed to me as much for the suspense as for its unique setting – early 20th century Bombay, India - and its clever, brave heroine, Preveen Mistry. She is the daughter of a prominent Bombay lawyer and therefore lives a life of privilege, but still she seeks justice and is naturally curious. The story, based in part on actual people, begins in 1921 with Preveen acting as Bombay's first female lawyer. She is working to help clarify the financial situation for three Muslim widows living in full purdah, or seclusion from men. Learning about the various cultural practices was fascinating and Massey did an excellent job...

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Inspired by historical events, the author paints a picture of multicultural Bombay in the 1920s.  This novel is about a woman lawyer who has a personal view of women's rights.  She also is a likable and and intelligent sleuth.
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I really enjoyed this book! It's a mystery story in the tradition of Agatha Christie and Jacqueline Winspear, but set in 1920s India with an engaging protagonist: Perveen Mistry, who hopes to be the first female lawyer in Bombay. She is particularly interested in helping women, especially when she can help in ways that men cannot. There are also extended flashbacks to her short and unhappy marriage. Although the mystery was nothing special (but a perfectly adequate page-turner!), the world-building in this book was excellent. I enjoyed learning about India in the 1920s, as well as the various religions explored, especially from the perspective of an unconventional woman!
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Parveen Mistry is the first female lawyer in British occupied India.  In this series starter, her personal story intertwines with the mystery she is trying to solve.  The history and cultural portrayals are fascinating; the mystery is intriguingly tied-up with culture.  Occasionally the writing is a bit stiff, but that doesn't keep me for eagerly awaiting Parveen's 2nd outing (before the first is even published!  Review based on a Netgalley ARC.)
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DNF. Sorry....this one just wasn't for me. I stopped on page 50 so won't review it on Goodreads.
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Sujata Massey has written many mystery books but this appears to be the beginning of a new series.  Her previous books were excellent and set in Japan; this one is in 1920's India.  The main character is a Farsi woman who attended law school at Oxford and has returned to India to work with her father.  She can not argue cases in court  but she is ready for when women are allowed to take the bar.  The story moves back in forth in time so we see her back story.which taught me a lot about the Farsi.  It is  great at showing the differences in caste and religion in Raj India.  I look forward to new books in this series.
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