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The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey Review

Title: The Widows of Malabar Hill

Author: Sujata Massey

First published January 9, 2018

385 pages, Hardcover

ISBN: 9781616957780 (ISBN10: 1616957786)

Rating: 3.93


Mumbai, 1921: Perveen Mistry, a young and determined lawyer, has recently joined her father’s law firm, blazing a trail as one of the first female lawyers in India. With a prestigious legal education from Oxford, Perveen is committed to fighting for women’s rights, a cause close to her heart.

When the wealthy Parsi businessman, Firoze Contractor, dies leaving behind three widows, Perveen is entrusted with the task of executing his will. However, as she delves into the case, she discovers something amiss.

The widows have signed their inheritance over to a charitable trust, but why? Perveen’s suspicions are aroused, especially when she learns that the widows live in strict purdah, secluded from the world, and have no contact with men.

As she investigates, Perveen realizes that the widows are in danger and that the trust they have signed over their inheritance to may not be all that it seems. With tensions rising and the threat of murder looming, Perveen must unravel the truth behind the widows’ plight and ensure their safety before it’s too late.

About the Author

Sujata Massey is an accomplished author who specializes in historical and mystery fiction set in Asia. Her most popular works are the Perveen Mistry series, which have been published by Soho Press in the United States and by Penguin Random House India in India.

The third book in the series, THE BOMBAY PRINCE, will be released in June 2021 in the US/Canada and Australia/New Zealand, with Penguin India publishing it later in the same month.

THE WIDOWS OF MALABAR HILL, the first book in the Perveen series, received numerous accolades, including being named a Best Mystery/Thriller of 2018 and an Amazon Best Mystery/Thriller of 2018. It also won three awards in 2019: the Bruce Alexander Best Historical Mystery Award, the Agatha Award for Best Historical Mystery, and the Mary Higgins Clark Award.

THE SATAPUR MOONSTONE, the second Perveen novel, won the Bruce Alexander Best Historical Mystery Award in 2020.

Aside from the Perveen series, Sujata has authored other works such as THE SLEEPING DICTIONARY (2013) and eleven Rei Shimura mysteries published from 1997-2014. If you’re interested in learning more about Sujata’s books and upcoming events, be sure to subscribe to her newsletter.

When Sujata isn’t writing, you can find her spending time with her family and two dogs in Baltimore, Maryland. She also enjoys traveling, reading, cooking, gardening, and taking walks.

Editoral Review

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey is a brilliant piece of historical fiction that explores the complexities of Indian society in the early 20th century with intricate detail and a sophisticated narrative style. Massey is an accomplished author and this latest novel demonstrates her skills at weaving together a complex tale of mystery, love, and political intrigue, set against the backdrop of colonial India.

The novel is a fascinating exploration of the cultural and historical context of India during the 1920s, focusing on the life of Perveen Mistry, a young Muslim woman who is struggling to find her place in a patriarchal society that is suspicious of her education and her ambitions. Perveen is a dynamic character whose journey is both moving and empowering, as she attempts to solve a series of murders involving a group of wealthy widows who are locked in a bitter feud over their late husband’s inheritance.

Massey’s writing style is superb, with a lyrical quality that captures the essence of Indian society and its complex cultural and political dynamics. The plot is engaging and fast-paced, full of unexpected twists and turns that keep the reader on the edge of their seat.

The characters are vividly drawn with a richly textured backstory that adds to the depth and complexity of the story. One of the most impressive aspects of the novel is how Massey manages to effectively portray the nuances and contradictions of India’s colonial society.

The novel portrays the complexities of Indian society during the colonial period, addressing issues of race, class, and gender with sensitivity and nuance. The novel effectively portrays the struggles of women in this society, especially the struggles of educated women who are attempting to find their place in a male-dominated world.

However, the novel does have some minor flaws. Occasionally, Massey’s portrayal of Indian society can be overly simplified and relies on stereotypical representations of characters.

While the plot is engaging, there are a few moments when it seems slightly contrived, with events seemingly coming together for the sake of narrative convenience. Despite these minor flaws, The Widows of Malabar Hill is a remarkable novel that is sure to captivate readers who enjoy historical fiction with a touch of mystery and romance.

The novel is a compelling and thought-provoking exploration of colonial India, brought to life with exquisite prose and vivid characters. Highly recommended for fans of literary fiction and historical mysteries.

Overall, The Widows of Malabar Hill is a beautifully crafted novel that demonstrates Massey’s mastery of storytelling and her ability to create a compelling narrative that carries the reader through the complexities of India’s colonial society. I rate this novel a 4 out of 5 stars, based on the strength of its writing, character development, and historical significance.