May 2019 - The Widows of Malabar Hill

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey
Book Group 1 – May 2019


Winner of the Agatha Award, The Mary Higgins Clark Award, and nominated for the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujatha Massey, is a thrilling mystery with fascinating detail about life in 1920s Bombay. 

Massey introduces Perveen Mistry, Bombay’s first female solicitor and daughter of a respected Zoroastrian family who has just joined her father’s law firm, becoming one of the first female lawyers in India. Armed with an Oxford legal education, Perveen also has a tragic personal history that makes her especially devoted to championing and protecting women’s legal rights. 

While Perveen is not allowed to argue cases in court, she is able to help with all the contractual aspects of a law practice. Looking over the estate of Omar Farid, a wealthy Muslim mill owner, she notices some suspicious aspects to the paperwork and is concerned about the welfare of the three widows who live in strict purdah. When a murder occurs, Perveen gets involved in the investigation. 

What our book group liked about this series launch was its great use of interesting historical detail. The description of food and the attire of the characters lend authenticity to the setting while also supporting the unfolding plot.The disappointing aspect for the group was that the mystery doesn’t really start until page 70 or so, which slows the pace considerably. 

Inspired in part by a real woman, Cornelia Sorabji, who made history by becoming India’s first female lawyer, The Widows of Malabar Hill is a richly wrought story of multicultural 1920s Bombay as well as the debut of a sharp and promising new sleuth, PerveenMistry. 

Shobhana Venkataraman