Rummanah Aasi

Description: Bombay, 1921: Perveen Mistry, the daughter of a respected Zoroastrian family, has just joined her father's law firm, becoming one of the first female lawyers in India. Armed with a legal education from Oxford, Perveen also has a tragic personal history that makes her especially devoted to championing and protecting women's rights.
  Mistry Law is handling the will of Mr. Omar Farid, a wealthy Muslim mill owner who has left three widows behind. But as Perveen goes through the papers, she notices something strange: all three have signed over their inheritance to a charity. What will they live on if they forefeit what their husband left them? Perveen is suspicious.
  The Farid widows live in purdah: strict seclusion, never leaving the women's quarters or speaking to any men. Are they being taken advantage of by an unscrupulous guardian? Perveen tries to investigate and realizes her instincts about the will were correct when tensions escalate to murder. It's her responsibility to figure out what really happened on Malabar Hill, and to ensure that nobody is in further danger.

Review: The Widows of Malabar Hill is the first installment of a new mystery series, set in Bombay in the 1920s. The book does a good job in establishing the diversity of colonial India particularly in class and religion. Perveen is a member of the Parsi community. She is extremely intelligent and is faced with constant obstacles for going against traditions, customs, and social mores of a being a professional woman. Perveen also belongs to an elite social class and is able to study law abroad at Oxford University. Though she is forbidden to become a lawyer because she is a woman, she still joins her father's law firm as a paralegal. I found the concept of studying law to be problematic considering there are many laws that are used in the book from Shariah, the Islamic law, the law of Paris, and the British law. So which law do you use to fight the case?   The mystery itself was okay though it took some time and patience to get it started. It allowed the reader to compare and contrast the various laws at play when it comes to marriage and family law. 
  There are two aspects of the book that did bother me. The first is the inclusion of religious slurs such as Mohammedian that are mentioned in the book. The term is offensive and inaccurate. I don't know why it was included in the book since the characters are educated enough to know that it is a wrong word to use. The second thing that also bothered me is the disjointed flashbacks that take place in 1917 that interrupt the flow of the present time. The transition between the two timelines are choppy at best and though it does provide backstory to Perveen's character, it comes across as a second story line in the book. After a while it becomes redundant and loses the book's focus. I really think the flashbacks could have been shorten and used more effectively and I hope this will be fixed in the later books. Due to the time period and the setting of the novel, I'm curious to see where this series will go.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some religious slurs towards Muslims and Islam, a scene of physical assault and fade to black sex scenes. Recommended for adults.

If you like this book try: Rei Shimura mysteries by Sujata Massey
5 Responses
  1. Too bad this has big blunders as it is a good premise and I thought it sounded so interesting

  2. I like that this one features a different era and culture, but I hate when flashbacks aren’t done well. It ruins the flow. I hope the next book is better.

  3. Kindlemom Says:

    This is why I choose to stay away from most books that have a religious aspect to them, more often than not they are offensive, pushy or completely inaccurate. Oh well, can't have it all I guess. Wonderful review for this!

  4. Hm... the misuse of slurs makes me think that the author had a specific bent. Also not liking the transition problems between timelines. Don't think this one is for me, but the premise sounded interesting.

  5. Christina T Says:

    I feel like an idiot because I didn't catch the slurs when I read it. :(

    I do think the mystery was promising. I wonder if the next book will not be so heavy on the backstory and have better pacing now that we are introduced to Perveen. I found the law aspect to be kind of interesting.

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