BOOK CLUB: A Murder at Malabar Hill

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[Total: 3 Average: 5]

Author: Sujata Massey
ISBN: 9781760529406
Copy courtesy of the publisher: Allen & Unwin

This is the first book by author Sujata Massey in a new mystery murder series.


The story is set between 1916 and 1921 and follows the life of Perveen Mistry who gained her law degree through Oxford and upon her return to Bombay has joined her father’s law firm, becoming one of the first female lawyers in India. 

Perveen is given a case relating to the will of Mr Omar Farid, a wealthy mill owner who has left three widows behind; Razia, Sakina and Mumtaz and their children.  All three widows live together in strict seclusion from the outside world. 

Perveen’s suspicions arise as she reviews the paperwork and feels the women are vulnerable to injustice living as Purdahnashins, they have signed their inheritance to a charity and she is concerned that they could not read or fully understand the document given to them by agent Mr Mukri who their husband left in charge of his estate.  

Perveen speaks to the women directly to communicate if they understood their rights and what they have signed is a legal document. Mr Mukri is angry over Perveen speaking to the women and feels she is interfering.  Following her visit, the agent is murdered and the widow’s fall under suspicion.  Perveen fears for their lives and gains as much evidence to find out what’s really happening at Malabar Hill.

Although the novel wasn’t difficult to solve there is a likeness to Agatha Christie’s great crime investigations which I thoroughly enjoy.  The novel contained a great history of religious beliefs and cultural Purdah practices in the wealthy neighbourhoods of Bombay. 

Perveen Mistry is a lovely character, well-rounded and with a good balance of independence and vulnerability. The plot is well-written, with some interesting twists. If you’re looking for a fun little mystery, this book is for you. 

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club members are reading A Murder at Malabar Hill. You can read their comments below, or add your own review!

7 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: A Murder at Malabar Hill

  1. Perveen is a bright educated young lady who becomes the first female lawyer in India in the 1920’s. Perveen works at her fathers law firm in Bombay and is to represent three widows in their late husbands’ estate.

    The book delves into culture and customs with vivid descriptions on clothing, food, religion and language. I felt that I needed to really concentrate, making the start a little slow going. I was possibly expecting more of a mystery or suspense novel, however I was given an insight to what it would have been like to be a woman working and living in an era when women’s rights and laws weren’t progressive or favorable.

    This is the first in a crime series and one of the first books of Sujata Massey’s books that I’ve read. Happy to recommend this enriching novel. I would like to thank Beauty and Lace Book Club and Allen & Unwin Publishers for the reading and reviewing opportunity.

  2. I found this a difficult novel to read. I really had to concentrate to try and understand the plot. I would not recommend this book

  3. What a great story, Bombay 1920’s Preveen Mistry works with her father in his law firm, she is one of the 1st female lawyers in India
    Hard to review this book as I don’t want to give away any spoilers to future readers,
    There are 2 cultures in this book and it was interesting learning about each one
    Throughly enjoyed reading
    Thanks

  4. Thanks to Beauty and Lace Book Club along with Allen & Unwin Publishers for the opportunity to review A Murder at Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey.
    This was the first novel I had come across by Sujata Massey and while I would like to read some of her other things I found A Murder at Malabar Hill very hard going.
    The setting of India, a strong female lead character, a murder mystery would usually all lead to me thoroughly enjoying a story but for me this one fell a bit flat.
    Parveen is a character I could relate to in parts but in other parts the cultural and era divide left me feeling like I had no idea why she was acting a certain way or what made her really tick. The jumping between timelines wasn’t confusing as such but seemed fairly unnecessary for the whole story line and murder mystery plot.
    While I wanted to really love this book, in the end I think it came down to too many characters for me to keep track of and some huge cultural differences I just couldn’t relate to all mixed in with a confusing story I struggled to follow and a mystery with no suspense.
    On a positive note, A Murder at Malabar Hill has piqued my interest in getting to know more about various Indian cultures and religions so for this I am thankful to Sujata for the opportunity to learn, and there were definitely some memorable parts of the book and Parveen’s story which will stay with me, but all in all the book as a whole fell disappointingly flat.

  5. I started this colourful novel and found it difficult to get my head around all the characters and setting etc early on, but as the story evolved, it became easier to follow all the storylines.
    This is an endearing tale of a young woman navigating life in 1920s India. She is ground breaking and progressive while being respectful of her culture’s traditions and her family’s expectations.
    The side stories are wonderfully intertwined just enough to build the supporting characters but not overwhelming, nor detracting from our main character and her story.
    I admired her tenacity and was in awe of the complex rules and expectations on young people at that time. You’ll need to be alert reading this one, can’t just drift away for a moment, you’ll lose precious details.
    Thanks so much Beauty and Lace magazine book club for the wonderful literature you offer to us members, and thanks to Allen & Unwin for provided the novel. Hugs xx

  6. Thanks Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to review A Murder at Malabar Hill by Sujat Massey.
    This is the first book in a mystery series. The main character a young woman Perveen Mistry who is a lawyer in the 1920’s in Bombay India where she is representing three widows.
    Perveen’s life is interesting as she has to deal with cultural traditions as well as family.
    It was an interesting read although I found it hard to concentrate especially at the beginning.

  7. Thank you to Beauty and Lace Book Club and Allen & Unwin for my copy to review.

    I loved this book. I found the culture, setting and era fascinating. Set in the 1920s, a young woman wants to study and practice law. Working for her father, going through the paperwork in what should be a fairly straight forward Will/Estate, she gets drawn into the lives of three widows living in a secluded household. She gets suspicious that the household trustee (the only man who is allowed to speak to the widows, and then only through a screen) is not telling the truth. As the only female solicitor in Bombay, while she isn’t allowed argue in court, she is the only one who can go into the women’s quarters and speak directly with the widows. Then, of course, there is a murder to solve.

    There are two time-lines in this book, but they are very easy to follow. The mystery in the Malabar Hill home intertwines with Perveen’s own history, which unfolds like a second mystery.

    I found the story well written and very easy to follow, the only point of confusion was trying to keep track of the characters names (being completely unfamiliar with Indian names). I love the small details, descriptions of unfamiliar settings, clothes and food. There was also the element of intelligent women in a world that wasn’t quite ready for them to have their freedom. Brilliant book – looking forward to the next installment.

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