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review 2019-07-27 01:15
The Satapur Moonstone - Sujata Massey

In the mystery of "THE SATAPUR MOONSTONE", Perveen Mistry, one of India's first women lawyers, is employed by the Kolhapur Agency on a short-term basis to adjudicate and devise an agreement which would ensure the best education for 10 year old Maharaja Jiva Rao of the Kingdom of Satapur (one of India's princely states, which under the aegis of the British Raj, enjoyed local autonomy). The reason for Perveen being given this delicate assignment was a bitter dispute between the kingdom's 2 maharanis (Jiva Rao's mother and his grandmother, the dowager queen) as to the type of education each desired for the maharaja, who had recently lost both his father and older brother (in the latter case, a tragic hunting accident was the likely cause of death). And as both maharanis were in purdah, no man was permitted to see and/or have any direct dealings with either of them. Here is where Perveen's services as a lawyer were needed and required. 

What follows as the story progresses once Perveen makes the journey from Bombay to the isolated Kingdom of Satapur (via the Circuit House situated at some distance from the Kingdom, where the British political agent responsible for overseeing matters pertaining to Satapur and the surrounding area resides) are various palace intrigues and unforeseen hazards that may imperil the maharaja and Perveen herself. 

Sujata Massey has again crafted a compelling and thrilling novel with fully realized characters no reader can be indifferent to. In addition to a map of the Kingdom of Satapur, there is also a glossary that identifies many of the terms used in the novel that are uniquely associated with the India of that era (i.e., the early 1920s and earlier). 

Simply put, "THE SATAPUR MOONSTONE" is a winner! I can't wait to read the next novel in the series

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review 2019-06-13 19:29
India Gray
India Gray: Historical Fiction - Sujata Massey
INDIA GRAY by Sujata Massey
This collection consists of two novellas and two short stories. Both novellas, Outnumbered at Oxford and The Ayah’s Tale are peopled by well formed characters and have detailed and nuanced plots with introduction, plot development and conclusion. Outnumbered at Oxford introduces characters found in the full length novel, THE WIDOWS OF MALABAR HILL. The two short stories are quite brief and include only one incident with little characterization. India Gray is the much more satisfying story for both character and plot. Bitter Tea simply leaves one wanting more.
Outnumbered at Oxford gives the reader of MALABAR HILL the back story of what transpired during Perveen’s banishment to England and introduces Alice, Perveen’s good friend, who has a role in MALABAR HILL. Both women find themselves bending the strict rules at St. Hilda’s College to solve the disappearance of a mathematical paper and a young man.
The Ayah’s Tale is a treatise on social class, including the vast social differences between Indians (in their own country) and English colonists during a time of growing desire for Indian independence. It leaves the reader wanting another tale to fill in the gap between the story and the epilogue.
The writing and research involved for all four tales is detailed and gives depth and interest to each story. A good introduction to an excellent writer.
5 of 5 stars


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review 2019-05-25 19:28
Murder with tea and jewels
The Satapur Moonstone - Sujata Massey
This the second mystery starring Purveen Mistry, a female Indian lawyer practicing in Bombay in 1921. (If you have not read the first, you might want to check it out first, so you know the backstory.) Purveen has been asked to determine if the children of a deceased Maharajah in princely India are being properly cared for and educated, and the royal succession maintained while the two remaining maharanis remain in purdah (seclusion).
Several mysterious incidents come to light as Purveen and an agent for the British Empire join forces to untangle the intricacies of Satapur’s royal aristocracy. Several deaths and more than several possible culprits appear along the way.
Massey’s care with the cultural differences observed by the various religions, political entities, and Indian versus British desires become part of the mystery. A bit of romance may even be hinted at if this entertaining series continues – and I hope it does.
Well written with strong characters and intricate plotting make this novel a great addition to the genre.
4 of 5 stars


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review 2018-01-28 17:00
The Widows of Malabar Hill (A Mystery of 1920s Bombay) - Sujata Massey

A few minutes ago (it's 11:20 AM EST as I write this), I had the satisfaction of finishing reading "THE WIDOWS OF MALABAR HILL." It's centered around India's first woman lawyer, Perveen Mistry, who had received her legal training at Oxford. The time is February 1921 and she has returned to her home in Bombay, where she has a job working in her father's law firm. 

Perveen has been given the responsibility of executing the will of Omar Farid, a wealthy Muslim who owned a fabric mill and had 3 wives. In the immediate aftermath of Farid's death, the 3 widows are living in strict purdah (a type of seclusion in which the widows never leave the women's quarters nor see and speak with any man) at the Farid residence on Malabar Hill. Whilst carefully reading the documents, Perveen notices that the widows have signed off their inheritance to a charity. What strikes Perveen as odd is that one of the widows' signature is a 'X', which is a clear indication that the widow who affixed the 'X' probably was unable to read the document. This leads Perveen to wonder how the 3 widows will be able to live and take care of themselves. She begins to suspect that maybe they may be taken advantage of by the legal guardian entrusted by Mr. Farid to handle their financial affairs. Perveen has the welfare and best interests of her clients, the 3 widows, in mind.

Perveen goes on to carry out an investigation. She makes an arrangement with the widows' legal guardian, Feisal Mukri, to come to the residence to visit the widows and to speak with each of them separately. In the process of doing so, tensions are stirred in the Farid residence and a murder takes place there that makes a straightforward matter of executing a family will into something much more perilous and uncertain. There is also something out of Perveen's recent past in Calcutta that intrudes into her present life. 

"THE WIDOWS OF MALABAR HILL" is a novel whose prose resonates on every page. It has a lot of twists and turns that will engage the reader's attention throughout. Sujata Massey is a writer who not only knows how to craft and tell a richly compelling novel. She'll leave the reader wanting more. And after almost 14 years of reading Massey's work, I'm already eager to begin reading the second novel in the Perveen Mistry Series. 

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review 2017-09-05 07:00
The Sleeping Dictionary - Sujata Massey

"THE SLEEPING DICTIONARY" is one of the best novels I've had the pleasure of reading this year. Sujata Massey, also known for her Rei Shimura mystery novels, is fast becoming one of my favorite writers. This is a rich, multi-layered, intense, thrilling story centered on the life of a young woman from West Bengal during the latter days of the British Raj. She began her life as Pom in a small village that was wiped out by an ocean wave, leaving her to cling to life on the highest rung of a lowly tree til she manages to draw the attention of a small rowing boat, which takes her to shore.


As a 10 year old orphan in 1930, Pom ends up in a British boarding school, where she (renamed Sarah) works as a servant and discovers she has a gift for languages. She learns to read and develops a passion for books and a remarkable facility in the English language, so much so that she can speak it like any well-heeled Briton. While at the boarding school, Sarah strikes up a friendship with Bidushi, an Indian girl of similar age from a well-to-do Brahmin family who struggles to learn English. Sarah helps Bidushi with her studies, and over time, their friendship grows, making them deeply bonded to one another.


Bidushi's family has made arrangements for her to marry Pankai, a fellow Brahmin who is studying law in London. The family encourages both Bidushi and Pankaj to maintain a correspondence. Bidushi shares Pankaj's letters with Sarah, and asks her help in writing letters in response to him. As a result, Sarah learns a great deal about Pankaj (who is among those Indians determined to achieve independence for their country from the British), and this proves to figure prominently in Sarah's later life. A life full of twists and turns that sees her forced out of the boarding school before she could complete her studies, and find refuge in Kharagpur. There she faces many challenges and experiences the darker, more sinister side of life before again, she finds she must flee. From Kharagpur, Sarah moves on to Calcutta in the late 1930s. There Sarah takes on a new identity, friends, work, and a deep, abiding commitment to the growing independence movement. The novel never flags. One you pick it up and read a few chapters, you're hooked.


I highly recommend "THE SLEEPING DICTIONARY" to everyone. It has an English/Hindi/Bengali reference guide that will further enrich your reading experience. And for those readers with a love for Indian cuisine, a few recipes are provided at novel's end under the title "A Taste of Old Calcutta."

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