The Satapur Moonstone

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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.

This is going to be hard.

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).

Hmm…

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.

Interesting…

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

 

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.