One of our recommended books is The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

THE WIDOWS OF MALABAR HILL


Perveen Mistry, the daughter of a respected Zoroastrian family, has just joined her father’s law firm, becoming one of the first female lawyers in India. Armed with a legal education from Oxford, Perveen has been appointed to execute the will of Mr. Omar Farid, a wealthy Muslim mill owner who has left three widows behind.

But Perveen notices something strange: all three wives have signed over their full inheritance to a charity. The Farid widows live in full purdah—in strict seclusion, never leaving the women’s quarters or speaking to any men. Are they being taken advantage of by an unscrupulous guardian?

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Perveen Mistry, the daughter of a respected Zoroastrian family, has just joined her father’s law firm, becoming one of the first female lawyers in India. Armed with a legal education from Oxford, Perveen has been appointed to execute the will of Mr. Omar Farid, a wealthy Muslim mill owner who has left three widows behind.

But Perveen notices something strange: all three wives have signed over their full inheritance to a charity. The Farid widows live in full purdah—in strict seclusion, never leaving the women’s quarters or speaking to any men. Are they being taken advantage of by an unscrupulous guardian? When tensions escalate to murder, it’s Perveen’s responsibility to figure out what really happened on Malabar Hill, and to ensure that no innocent women or children are in further danger.

Inspired in part by the woman who made history as India’s first female attorney, The Widows of Malabar Hill is a richly wrought story of multicultural 1920s Bombay as well as the debut of a sharp new sleuth.

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  • Soho Crime
  • Paperback
  • November 2018
  • 416 Pages
  • 9781616959760

Buy the Book

$15.95

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About Sujata Massey

Sujata Massey credit Jim BurgerSujata Massey was born in England to parents from India and Germany, was raised mostly in St. Paul, Minnesota, and lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She was a features reporter for the Baltimore Evening Sun before becoming a full-time novelist. Her novels have won the Agatha and Macavity awards and been finalists for the Edgar, Anthony, and Mary Higgins Clark prizes.

Author Website

Praise

ABA IndieNext Selection
An Amazon Editor’s Pick for Best of January
An Apple iTunes Most Anticipated Book of 2018
The Bookseller (UK) Editor’s Pick for Mystery
A Bustle Most Anticipated Book of 2018
A LitHub Most Anticipated Crime, Mystery, and Thriller Title of 2018

“A splendid first installment in what promises to be a memorable series.” The Wall Street Journal

“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.” Los Angeles Times 

“Marvelously plotted, richly detailed.” —The Washington Post

“The pages do indeed fly.” The Globe and Mail

The Widows of Malabar Hill contains multitudes, tackling women’s history and rights, while treating readers to a riveting story.” —The National Post

“A spectacular mystery.” —Bustle

“Perveen Mistry is an extraordinary heroine . . . [She is] sure to join the leads of great mystery fiction.” —Susan Elia MacNeal, New York Times bestselling author of the Maggie Hope mysteries

“[Perveen MIstry] is destined to find a home with fans of like-minded female investigators such as Mary Russell and Maisie Dobbs.” —Los Angeles Review of Books

“An enticing and enlightening whodunit that addresses social issues and India’s multiple cultures.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch

“The start of a series mystery readers should not miss.” —Amulya Malladi, bestselling author of A House for Happy Mothers and The Copenhagen Affair

“Absolutely terrific, and you are just going to love Perveen Mistry, India’s first female lawyer.”—Charles Todd, bestselling author of the Ian Rutledge series and the Bess Crawford series

Discussion Questions

1. Perveen Mistry is in a historically groundbreaking role: she is representing the rights of female clients, some of whom have never before had any access to legal protection because of religious law, limited education, or patriarchal restrictions that greatly disadvantage them. Perveen is the perfect female lawyer to represent women’s rights, since she herself has had terrible legal problems and has seen how frustrating it is to have no power under the law. How much more difficult is Perveen’s job than a contemporary female lawyer’s? Did any of her encounters particularly frustrate or anger you as a reader? Did she face problems that you couldn’t imagine a lawyer today facing? On the other hand, have things not changed as much as we think?

2. What do you make of Perveen’s last meeting with Cyrus? How would you have felt in her position?

3. The difference between “modern” and “orthodox” religiosity is an important one in this book. Perveen’s parents, the Mistrys, are depicted as modern Parsis who educate their daughter and hope she will have a career. The Sodawallas, meanwhile, are orthodox Parsis who still obey ancient purity laws that are now thought to be unhealthy and who expect their new daughter-in-law to leave her education behind and be a traditional housewife. The gap in the two families’ beliefs becomes violent and heartbreaking. How has this conversation about religious orthodoxy changed since the 1920s? How does it still relate to our 21st-century societies?

4. Why do you think Behnoush Sodawalla is so insistent that Perveen isolate herself? What do you think are the real reasons behind her strict Parsi traditionalism?

5. Meanwhile, in the Farid house in Bombay, the Muslim widows live in purdah, another form of religious orthodoxy. How do the Muslim and Parsi restrictions on women differ? How do they overlap? From each of the Farid widows’ points of view, what would you say are the advantages and disadvantages of living in purdah? Were you surprised by their decision to leave purdah at the end of the book?

6. What role does class play in the novel? How different would Perveen’s choices have been if she had not been from such a wealthy family? Do you think she would have been more or less likely to marry Cyrus, or more or less likely to leave him? What other choices of hers would have been impossible if she had come from a poor or middle-class family?

7. Meanwhile, Perveen is very accepting of her best friend’s homosexuality, but Alice’s parents are clearly not. How do you think Alice’s situation might have been different if she had not been as wealthy? How much advantage does she have as an expatriate? How do you think the flowering women’s rights movement will affect her? Do you think she’ll end up finding more freedom and happiness in India, as she hopes, or do you think she will eventually find gender roles and sexuality there to be just as stifling?