Rating: 4.5 / 5
THE WIDOWS OF MALABAR HILL by Sujata Massey was my pick for the thriller or mystery prompt by a woman of color on the Reading Women Challenge. I meant to get to it in June, but just didn’t get to it, so it went right to my July TBR. I have heard Sujata Massey highly praised on the Reading Women and Book Riot podcasts, so I knew I needed to check it out.
THE WIDOWS OF MALABAR HILL is a mystery set in the early 1900s in India and it follows Perveen Mistry, the only female lawyer in Bombay. Perveen works for her father and her gender does limit her from performing all the functions of a lawyer, but also gives her some unique access. As a woman, Perveen has access to speak with the three widows of their deceased client even though they are in seclusion and may not be seen or touched by any man during their mourning period.
Perveen suspects that the widows are being taken advantage of by the man who was brought in to oversee the house, the widows and their families in the absence of his late boss. As Perveen begins to investigate, things turn even more intense when she discovers a murder.
I really loved Perveen as a character. As the narrative progresses, we get some chapters that flash back to her background and her struggles with her education and her relationships that have brought her to the present day. She is a very strong female protagonist at a time when that would have been a rarity. She shows intelligence and creativity to discover the truth and get herself out of the trouble she finds along the way.
I haven’t done a lot of reading set in India, especially not in the 1920s when this book takes place. There is a lot of interesting discussion of women’s rights in regards to marriage, education and inheritance. In the case of the widows they are choosing to remain in seclusion which is in no way represented negatively, but in some cases women are forced into seclusion which certainly is.
It initially took me a little while to fully engage with this story, but I really enjoyed it once I got into it. This is a mystery which largely depends on character development rather than solely the mystery at hand. This was very well written and I will definitely be looking forward to reading Sujata Massey’s latest release.