The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Ah, the sorrows of second book syndrome.
I really loved The Widows of Malabar Hill, the first book in Sujata Massey's Perveen Mistry series. I loved the character of Perveen, the fact that she was Parsi, her personal backstory of how she ended up going to Oxford and reading the law, and her return to Bombay (Mumbai) to work for her father's law firm, even though she can't be a barrister. The novel also had a wonderful plot, involving a mystery that only Perveen, being a woman, could solve/resolve.
Unfortunately, it seems as if Massey had something of a writer's block about where to go from there, since in this novel once again we have Perveen dealing with widowed female clients in purdah (seclusion) and a twisted villain who lives among them. We also have an awkward nascent and impossible romance, a Perveen who is less self-assured, yet who is traveling alone, in spite of the fact that she is socially acting as if unmarried, and staying with a bachelor British (Raj) governing agent in fictional Satapur. We even have occasional language that seems anachronistic. Overall, the books seems to be written less tightly and with less care. While I was gratified with the success of Maharani Mirabai, that outcome didn't overcome my qualms about the other things.
Given my fondness for the first book, I'd definitely be willing to give Perveen #3 a shot. However, having all her clients be widows in purdah will make this promising series stagnate. I hope that Massey moves on to new areas, in spite of the probable challenges facing a 1920's woman solicitor in India (or even in the British Empire, since Ivy Williams became the first woman called to the Bar in 1922.)
I received a Digital Review Copy of this book from Soho Press along with a paper review copy, in exchange for an honest review.
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