This book is another episode in the Malabar House series that teeters between being a historical novel and a crime/mystery. I thought I had the whole thing figured out by the third chapter, but I must admit that I was totally wrong! The solution to the mystery was much more convoluted and steeped in a history that I knew nothing about. That made it all the more fun to read.
Of course, I am totally sympathetic to the main character, Persis Wadia, who is making her way as an independent woman in post-independence India. Having to be twice as good at her job than any man, she struggles against not only the view of women from society at large, but also by some of her colleagues, all of whom have been exiled to Malabar House for some indiscretion or other. It is the dumping ground for misfits and cases no one else wants to touch, but Persis persists… and succeeds.
There is a thread of romance running through the books as well, and in this incarnation, we finally get some movement in the relationship between Archie and Persis. I must admit I’m rooting for Archie, but anything serious between them is fraught on so many levels, not the least of which is the idea that Persis would have to give up her hard-won position on the police force if she was ever to marry… and an Englishman? Much sturm und drang in this relationship. And her father adds to the emotional upheaval in a totally unexpected way. This is a story of the unexpected.
Mr. Khan is also a master of metaphor. It lends so much to the story, the setting, the atmosphere of the book. A good writer immerses the reader in the world of the story, and this author is a master at it.
If you’ve read any other books in this series, do not miss this one. If not, start at the beginning and read all of them. You will not be disappointed.