When clever, headstrong Kaveri moves to Bangalore to marry handsome young doctor Ramu, she's resigned herself to a quiet life. But that all changes the night of the party at the Century Club, where she escapes to the garden for some peace and quiet—and instead spots an uninvited guest in the shadows. Half an hour later, the party turns into a murder scene. When a vulnerable woman is connected to the crime, Kaveri becomes determined to save her and launches a private investigation to find the killer, tracing his steps from an illustrious brothel to an Englishman's mansion. She soon finds that sleuthing in a sari isn't as hard as it seems when you have a talent for mathematics, a head for logic, and a doctor for a husband . . . And she's going to need them all as the case leads her deeper into a hotbed of danger, sedition, and intrigue in Bangalore's darkest alleyways.
Effervescent ... Kaveri and Ramu form a true partnership over the course of the novel, one where they can play off strengths and compensate for each other’s weaknesses. Even though I did see the main twist coming, the danger level felt palpable and authentic. This is a treat for historical mystery lovers looking for a new series to savor (or devour).
The cast of characters in the story is diverse and entertaining ... Nagendra tackles misogyny more than politics and writes feminist characters that seem realistic for the times ... The story moves at a quick pace thanks to Nagendra’s colorful characters and her 1921 Bangalore setting. To add texture, Nagendra includes an illustrated map of central Bangalore at the front of the book and a glossary of terms unfamiliar to some readers, as well as a handful of recipes that newlywed Kaveri learns to cook for Ramu in between her sleuthing. Feminism only goes so far.
Nagendra’s descriptions of day-to-day life in the city, reflecting her years of research on its ecology, take us back to the Bangalore of yore, with its gulmohars and magnolias, bungalows with verandahs and gardens, Blighty’s tea room, horse-cart rides, and leisurely strolls in Lalbagh and Cubbon Park. Less-remembered historical facts such as a zoo in Lalbagh with a resident orangutan are also recorded, taking the reader on a nostalgia trip. However, a few things, like the unlikely use of 'Chennai' by a British doctor or the presence of paneer patties in the 1920s, jar in an otherwise historically accurate novel ... Also, apart from minor forays into ‘forbidden’ colonies, the atmospheric evocations of the city largely reinforce privileged representations of early 20th century Bangalore. Wasn’t there a Bangalore beyond the gardens, clubs, vegetarian food and bungalows? ... Where the novel scores is in the unmistakable female gaze, albeit a bit naive in its idealism, that Nagendra lends to Kaveri. We view the world of the 1920s from a woman’s perspective and celebrate her as she breaks stereotypes and transgresses class and caste barriers with elan. Kaveri’s character — a sari-wearing, coffee-drinking lady sleuth who also loves to cook for her husband — is as interesting as it gets. The portrayal of Ramu and Kaveri’s marital relationship and Kaveri’s endearing personality are sometimes more absorbing than the details of the crime itself. The Kaveri dictionary and Kaveri recipes at the end reflect the care and affection with which Nagendra has created her ... Kaveri Murthy is a much-needed South Indian addition to the short list of Indian female sleuths. And if the prologue is anything to go by, there are many more Kaveri and Ramu detective adventures in the offing.