December 4, 2023

This is the story of Oxford educated Perveen Mistry, from a strong Zoroastrian family, and the first female lawyer in 1920s Bombay. Perveen started work at her father’s law firm and became a strong advocate for female rights.

Her first case was investigating an unusual will left by the late patriarch of three muslim widows living in seclusion. When it turns to murder an intrigued Perveen starts investigating the crime.

Sujata draws a fascinating tapestry of life in purdah. We also get to know Perveen who has her own baggage from a personal trauma.

The Parsi Community

Perveen is part of the Parsi community who emigrated from Iran and came to settle in India with their religion and tradition intact. Sujata highlighted issues of the 1920s, including an outdated practise in the Parsi tradition that isolates women during their period.

Sujata Massey, the author

The author spent a long time establishing her character and at one point I wondered if this was a mystery or a historical women’s fiction. But it paid off. I want to know more about Perveen and how she has developed. I look forward to reading more of this series.

Two historical mystery thirty years apart

I loved the Widows of Malabar Hill because it introduced me to a new world that I just recently discovered reading mystery author Vaseem Khan’s first of his historical mystery series in the 1950s India – Midnight at Malabar House. This introduces Persis, the first female detective in Bombay.

The similarity is that both feature strong female protagonists from the Parsi community with failed relationships that scarred them.  

Both sources included information that India invented the fingerprinting classification.

It is a joy to read these two authors and soak in the history of India thirty years apart!

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