I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Widows of Malabar Hill (Perveen Mistry, #1) by Sujata Massey
Published by Soho Press on January 9th 2018
Source: Audiobook provided by Libro.fm, Owned
Bombay, 1921: 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 also has a tragic personal history that makes her especially devoted to championing and protecting women's rights.
Mistry Law is handling the will of Mr. Omar Farid, a wealthy Muslim mill owner who has left three widows behind. But as Perveen goes through the papers, she notices something strange: all three have signed over their inheritance to a charity. What will they live on if they forefeit what their husband left them? Perveen is suspicious.
The Farid widows live in purdah: strict seclusion, never leaving the women's quarters or speaking to any men. Are they being taken advantage of by an unscrupulous guardian? Perveen tries to investigate and realizes her instincts about the will were correct when tensions escalate to murder. It's her responsibility to figure out what really happened on Malabar Hill, and to ensure that nobody is in further danger.
I love audio books. In the author’s notes on the audio version of Joe Hill’s NOS4A2, he talks about how the first stories we learn are read to us. I listen to audio books when I’m in the car, shopping, exercising (what? It happens!), cooking and playing semi-mindless games on my phone.
In typical book blogger fashion, I already have a tbr shelf just for audio books. Reviewing them is a bit more difficult, because I don’t take notes and I don’t always know how to spell the characters names. So these reviews will be a little different from my book reviews.
Working at the bookstore provides me with so much TBR temptation, that it’s practically mind melting. The author of The Widows of Malabar Hill was scheduled for a signing at our bookstore, so the book cover had been calling my name for quite a while. But I didn’t have a physical copy, and I wasn’t working the day of the event, so I wasn’t sure if it was destined to happen. But then I got an audiobook copy through Libro.fm (they provide monthly listener copies for us booksellers). I thought I’d give it a try on audio, and instantly fell in love.
The book takes place in India during two time periods, 1916-1917 and then later in 1921. Perveen Mistry is a young Indian woman who is attending law school in order to join her father’s practice. This causes her all sorts of trouble, as her fellow classmates are less than thrilled to be sharing a classroom with a woman. Perveen is tough, but she’s also young and miserable, and then she meets a young, handsome man named Cyrus…
Then it’s 1921 and Perveen is a lawyer in her father’s firm. While she is India’s first female lawyer, she doesn’t have the same rights as male lawyers- she can’t speak in court. Perveen mostly works on contracts, and it’s this aspect of her job that leads her to the widows of Malabar Hill. These are 3 women who were all married to the same man, and have chosen a life of seclusion from other men. When their husband dies, they make a request regarding their inheritance that troubles Perveen, who sets off to talk to the widows.
Soon she gets caught up in a murder investigation in Malabar Hill, and she’s in the unique position to help the police by interviewing the widows since their seclusion makes talking to men difficult. Perveen is more than a little invested in the mystery, and soon finds herself in danger. But is the danger coming from her present situation or from her past?
I really loved all the characters- Perveen is a great heroine, smart, capable but not without flaws. Her friend, Alice, is a fun contrast. I adored Perveen’s parents, who are there for her no matter what (even when they don’t agree with her decisions). The widows were all full of secrets and motives, and I was just glued to the story!
The setting was another of my favorite parts! I loved seeing 1920’s Bombay and learning about the culture. Massey does an amazing job introducing all the history and religious castes while keeping it entertaining and interesting. I know it’s early in the year, but this is already going on my Best of 2018 List! (Sadly, I wasn’t feeling good the day of the book signing event and didn’t go, but I did buy a hardcover book because the cover is so lovely and the story so good, it had earned a place on my physical bookshelves). I really want to read more by Massey!
This is my first audiobook trip with Soneela Nankani, but it won’t be my last! She really did a lovely job with all the accents, both Indian and British, as well as capture both the emotions of the characters as well as the suspense. She’s definitely a narrator I plan on keeping an eye out for when buying books!