A Murder On Malabar Hill: Sujata Massey’s Perveen Mistry goes sleuthing in 1920s India

The story is centred around Perveen Mistry, a young lawyer who joins her father’s firm, and is on her way to become one of India’s first female lawyers, but finds her life in danger due to a case.

author_img Simar Bhasin Published :  16th March 2018 05:45 PM   |   Published :   |  16th March 2018 05:45 PM
Sujata Massey

Sujata Massey

Set in1921, Sujata Massey’s whodunnit is everything you need for a binge-reading session. The story is centred around Perveen Mistry, a young lawyer who joins her father’s firm, and is on her way to become one of India’s first female lawyers, but finds her life in danger due to a case. Ask her what drew her to 
that particular time and place in Indian history, and she says that apart from it being a dynamic period in the freedom movement, it was also a time of change, particularly for women. “In 1923 India’s first woman barrister, Mithan Tata Lam, was admitted to the Bombay Bar, and Cornelia Sorabji was continuing her long career as a working woman solicitor on behalf of women and children in purdah,” the US-based author explains.

Apart from its gripping narrative, A Murder on Malabar Hill has some very detailed descriptions of 1920s Gothic architecture in Bombay. “I also was able to study turn-of-the-century buildings that still exist in Malabar Hill. The elegant Muhammad Ali Jinnah bungalow is the inspiration for the Farid mansion, and the tall Homi Bhaba bungalow’s style informed the residence of the Hobson-Jones family,” Sujata elaborates.

Witty gritty
An admirer of authors such as Rohinton Mistry, Amitav Ghosh, Sadat Hasan Manto and Qurat-ulain Haider, Sujata is also a fan of mysteries from the Golden Age of detective fiction, namely those by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. “Lately, I’ve discovered a gifted mystery author from the 1950s, Josephine Tey, who died with too short a list of books for the world to enjoy,” she says.
And, does she intend on making the novel into a series? “I am bringing out a second Perveen novel in 2019, and in a couple of weeks, I’m starting work on book three,” she says, adding that the next 
addition to the series will be set in the backdrop of Princely India. 

Penguin Books, `399.
 

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