The first in a new mystery series set in 1920s India: Perveen Mistry, Bombay’s first female lawyer, is investigating a suspicious will on behalf of three Muslim widows living in full purdah when the case takes a turn toward the murderous.
[Massey] does an excellent job here intercutting the tale of Perveen's romantic courtship, ill-fated marriage and escape from Cyrus and his parents' strict Zoroastrian household in Calcutta with her quest for fair treatment of the three devout Muslim widows. As a result, the novel makes the complex religious and legal diversity of India understandable while illuminating the apparent divisions within religious groups whose members struggle between devotion to the old ways and those of the increasingly modernizing world ... Perveen's dogged pursuit of truth and justice for her clients is reminiscent of the debuts of Anne Perry's Charlotte Ellison Pitt and Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs. But the multicultural, multi-faith milieu in which Perveen lives, works and attempts to find love both illuminates a bygone era and offers a thoughtful perspective relevant to today's focus on women's rights and equality.
With compassion and understanding, Sujata Massey’s narrative shifts between Perveen’s anguished past and the plight of the widows, unveiling fascinating details about the complicated, dutiful lives of women in Bombay. Massey draws an especially poignant and ironic analogy between Perveen’s struggle to succeed against her culture’s misogyny while India struggles against the vestiges of its colonial rulers.
The story of the three widows and their children, who lead such an isolated existence in a bungalow on Malabar Hill Road, is parcelled out in tandem with Perveen's own story about a disastrous past she very nearly did not escape. Her tale is one that is just as absorbing as the murder mystery and has a quiet power all its own. Each thread is carefully paced; Massey clearly knows just what she's doing, which is giving readers both a captivating whodunit and a lasting base for more books featuring this same cast of characters.