Mohandas Ghandi’s non-cooperation movement was gaining widespread popularity, promoting the wearing of homespun fabrics, boycotting of British institutions and schools and the refusal to pay taxes. So, when King George V announced that the Prince of Wales, Prince Edward would be visiting India on a fourth month tour to thank the people for their support during the war, his visit became a catalyst for civil demonstrations and unrest leading to outbreaks of rioting and looting.
Sujata Massey’s third mystery featuring female solicitor Perveen Mistry is set in Bombay during the Price’s visit. Herself a supporter of the Independence movement, Perveen is reluctantly watching the parade welcoming the Prince into Bombay with her British friend Alice, at Woodburn College where Alice teaches. During the parade, no one notices a female student missing, a young women called Freny Cuttingmaster, who had visited Perveen at her father’s law practice a few days before. It is only after the procession is over that Freny is found, dead in the gardens, apparently falling from the school building, although Perveen is suspicious that her fall was not an accident.
This is another excellent addition to Massey’s Perveen Mistry series. Bombay during Prince Edward’s visit makes a very atmospheric background to the murder mystery at it centre. The pages are redolent with the sights and sounds of India, as well as details of the racial and religious divides and customs. As a solicitor educated at Oxford and member of a well off Parsi family, working alongside her father in his law practice, Perveen is able to mingle in British as well as Indian society which allows insights into both worlds. However, as a woman in male dominated India she often struggles to be paid the attention she deserves and must always be on her guard when it comes to how she behaves and who she is seen with, especially men.
As well as delivering an intriguing mystery and a fascinating, female protagonist, Massey has captured the culture and political sentiments of the time, bringing to life a vibrant India at the start of its struggle for independence.
With thanks to Allen and Unwin Australia for a copy to read. Also published by Soho Crime, June 1, 2021.