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by Sujata Massey
Soho, May 2019
360 pages
ISBN: 1616959096

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Sujata Massey's THE WIDOWS OF MALABAR HILL, the first of her mystery novels to feature 1920s lawyer-detective Perveen Mistry, was creative, evocative, and driven by its heroic yet relatable insecure hero, whose struggle to find her place as a professional woman in British India is as compelling as the suspense plot. Massey delivers equally strong work in Mistry's second outing, THE SATAPUR MOONSTONE. Once again, Mistry is called upon to investigate a mystery seemingly guarded by other Indian women, ones who differ from her in class, religion, and politics, but don't want the intrusive help of a male lawyer.

Two rulers of the Satapur principality, one a child, have suddenly died, and the mother of the remaining minor heir wants to protect him, especially because British colonial administrators would have the right to appoint a new prince in the event of his death. Perveen's investigation turns up an ambitious uncle, a possible poisoning, and a pair of princesses of different generations engaged in a massive feud.

Mistry also finds herself ambivalently attracted to one of the colonial overlords, the improbably yet appropriately named Sir Colin Sandringham. (One of Queen Elizabeth II's residences is Sandringham House.) Meanwhile, a mysterious upper-class lady, returned to India after a sojourn as a Parisian dancer, gives Parveen a piece of jewelry that turns out to be the lost "Satapur Moonstone" a dangerous gift and also a clear allusion to Victorian novelist Wilkie Collins' detective novel The Moonstone (1868), in which said stone invests a British colonial family with a curse that seems payback for their colonial thievery and murder.

Whereas The Moonstone focuses on the adventures of the gem itself, THE SATAPUR MOONSTONE traces the fortunes of the two children the prince and his sister caught between Satapur's many would-be rulers. The result is both a riveting adventure and a righteous reinvention of Collins.

I look forward to Perveen Mistry, Esquire's third adventure, whenever it may arrive.

Rebecca Nesvet is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. She specializes in nineteenth-century literature. https://uwgb.academia.edu/RebeccaNesvet

Reviewed by Rebecca Nesvet, April 2019

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