The Satapur Moonstone (Perveen Mistry Mystery #2) by Sujata Massey
So I made a booboo. I read this book first, before The Widows of Malabar Hill.
So after I read it, I wrote this review and left it the same.
This book appealed to me as I love the art deco style, when I see that my eyes are just magnetized to it.
The story takes place in 1922. Perveen Mistry left a bad marriage and became a lawyer, the only women lawyer in India-yes, not only the only woman, the only Indian woman. It has been hard at times as women are not always treated well in the ’20s. There are a lot of barriers and people treating her as less, but Perveen will persevere.
However, being an Indian woman lawyer does have its advantages. She was just hired by the British government to travel to Satapur to mediate between the Dowager Maharani (grandma) and the Maharani (mother) of the current Maharajah (just a boy) about where their future leader should attend school. While the British government isn’t in control or ruling Satapur, they heavily “influence” it and as there is no adult male Maharajah, he is a “ward of the state” technically.
The women have been arguing what to do, but every time they send the civil servant out there, he is refused as the women are observing purdah. No unknown males can enter the palace, and the only one who can go is a woman lawyer.
After hearing the amount she is to be paid:
She agrees to the plan and moves forward. But her good feeling doesn’t last as Perveen starts to wonder if this was a bad idea when she has to ride a mail cart to the Circuit House and wait there with the single civil servant, a male civil servant, Colin while the palanquin that is set to take her to the Maharaja is gone. This goes against a lot of customs.
She enjoys staying with Colin, the civil servant, and he likes her too. They both have similar interests, enjoy each other’s company, etc. Colin however is a white Britisher and Perveen is a Parsi, a married Parsi.
The two talk about the Satupar situation and Perveen grows concerned about the Maharajah. His mother the Maharani is very upset and worried he might die. His father passed away last year from cholera and his older brother was killed and eaten by a tiger. However, the quick succession of deaths has Perveen worried-is it an accident or were they killed on purpose?
The Palanquin has to be fixed and Perveen is stuck at the house a bit longer-and Colin throws a dinner party. There she meets a crew of interesting people-Britisher Dr. Andrews, former dancer Mehta, her husband Yazad, and Roderick Ames who has English name and manners but is Indian.
She learns more gossip abut the palace-the current maharajah’s father was in love with a dancer that disappeared in the night (maybe also murdered) and that Mehta was a princess in the palace and almost married the prince before she left India for France. When Mehta hears that Perveen is to go to the palace she tells her she needs to bring a gift to all its royal occupants. After looking at what she wants to take, she declares none are worthy of the Dowager Maharani and Maharani, kindly giving her some items she can give to the Maharani’s, one being a giant moonstone.
She also finds out from Mehta, that the two Maharani’s cannot stand each other.
Finally Perveen is able to head to the palace, getting soaked and almost not allowed in, but is after she gives them the moonstone. The Dowager Maharani claims it was hers originally and stolen by some dancer and she tries to get Perveen to tell her how she got it, but doesn’t believe it came from Paris (what Mehta told her).
In the palace Perveen finds a bad situation. The two Maharanis are always fighting, constantly at odds. Maharani (the mother) is anxious that someone is trying to kill her son. She has been doing everything she can think of to protect him, but wants him out of the palace. The Maharajah’s uncle, Prince Swaroop, is very antagonistic and was with the late Maharajah when he was killed. Could he be trying to get rid of the heir to take it himself?
Perveen knows not who to trust and she almost is poisoned herself! The longer she stays the more she is certain of things: 1) the deaths were not an accident, 2) Perveen needs to get out of there as her life is in danger, and 3) someone is going to try to kill the Maharajah.
Perveen presents her case for schooling and also tries to get them to let her take the Maharajah with her, to protect him, but is refused. As it is clear that they are growing to dislike her, Perveen decides it is best to leave before she is thrown in jail.
She goes to Colin and shares what had happened at the palace and her fears. She isn’t there too long when Prince Swaroop comes accusing her of kidnapping as the prince is missing. Perveen gets on the case as she knows she needs to find him ASAP or else it’ll be too late.
Thoughts After Reading:
This was really good.
I liked that it was historical fiction and I liked how she explained the complexity of religion, class, and the history of India.
It was a great mystery as it captured my attention and I wanted to continue to read it. I figured out part of the book but the end had a twist that eluded me.
I loved it and am planning on reading the first book as soon as I can. (Which I already did.)
For more Perveen Mistry Mysteries, go to The Widows of Malabar Hill
For more Historical Fiction, go to And Only to Deceive
For more lawyer mysteries, go to My Husband’s Wife