The Widows of Malabar Hill

The Widows of Malabar Hill (Perveen Mistry Mystery #1) by Sujata Massey

Thoughts Before Reading:

So I read book two first, and NEEDED to read the first book.

Plot Synopsis:

Perveen Mistry is the only female Indian lawyer. She works for her father and has just been given her first big case. Her father has represented Muslim mill owner Farid for years, and with his death some documents about his three wives’ inheritance comes across Perveen’s desk. All the women are practicing Purdah, and can only be around men related to them and women.

Muslim inheritance law is a little different from other law, so Perveen refreshes her knowledge of it, but something about the paperwork seems off. All the women want to give up their inheritance to the wakf-which is troubling but does happen-but even more so what bothers her is that one woman who is illiterate and on a previous document signed an “X”, while on this one wrote out her name.

Razia is the first wife, an arranged marriage. Sakina came next-beautiful and chosen for love/lust-and the only one to have a son. Mumtaz was the last wife, married right before Farid died. Mumtaz was met on one of the trips to the pleasure district, a musician, and the literate wife.

She goes to meet the women and is even more troubled. Their man who takes care of the estate, and them (a cousin of Sakin) is Mr. Mukri who seems to be taking liberties with his controlling of the finances and isolating the women. He is very abusive in his manner and treats Perveen like garbage.

The situation with the three wives is also extremely distressing. The second wife acts like the first wife, none know how much money they have, the third wife is treated horribly, and all think they have only one option-to put their money in the wakf. None know what Mukri spends their money on or what he plans to do with their inheritance.

Hmm…

Amina is the eldest daughter, born to the first wife and she is adorable and precocious. She’s always listening, sneaking around, and watching everything. She tries to warn Perveen about something but Perveen excuses Amina so she can speak to Mumtaz alone.

They get interrupted by Mr. Mukri who yells at Perveen and threatens her, bringing back old memories of her ex-husband. When Mukri gets distracted she leaves, but realizes she forgot her briefcase of important papers. She can’t leave it there, as it is highly confidential, so she sneaks in though the women’s entrance and finds Mr. Mukri DEAD.

As the widows are still observing purdah, the only one who can question them is Perveen. She needs to find out who the killer is before they strike again.

Thoughts After Reading:

This book was amazing. A fantastic read that I could not put down.

Not only do we have this great mystery, but also a view of Hindu, Zoroastrianism, and Muslim law-all very distinct in their law and customs.

Perveen also has her best friend move from England, Alice, and we see a view of the Indian and English relationship in 1921 India. This too was really interesting as you can see that some like the British Colonialism, some have just learned how to live with it, and others are talking about removing it.

We also get a look into Perveen’s history with her husband, and boy it was a sad one and one heck of a doozy. Poor Perveen.

I definitely recommend this!

For more lawyer mysteries, go to My Husband’s Wife

For more mysteries, go to Motive v. Opportunity

On a sad note, given the context of this book I wanted to add this:

Are you being abused?

It’s abuse when someone who should care about you does or says things that hurt you or make you feel afraid, helpless or worthless. Here are only a few examples:

  • Slapping, hitting, punching, choking, grabbing, shoving, kicking you or your kids, your pets
  • Threatening you, your kids, friends, family or pets
  • Hitting, kicking, slamming walls, doors, furniture, possessions
  • Forcing you to have sex
  • Calling you names, swearing at you, yelling
  • Controlling all the money, even money you earn
  • Blaming you or your kids for everything
  • Putting you down, making you feel like nothing you do is ever good enough
  • Treating you like a servant or slave
  • Controlling where you go, what you do, what you wear
  • Controlling who you see, who you talk to
  • Humiliating you in front of other people
  • Refusing to let you leave the relationship

If you are in danger call 911, a local hotline, or the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224.