reviewed by Gail Byrd
The Dying Day by Vaseem Kahn is one of the most intricate and intriguing books I’ve read recently. It’s a puzzle in the guise of a novel. Why did a renowned scholar steal a priceless centuries old manuscript of Dante’s The Divine Comedy?
To solve it, Persis, the first female investigator in 1950’s India, will have to solve a series of intricate smaller puzzles. The reader is afforded the opportunity to solve these puzzles as well, although some of them take advanced knowledge of Bombay and at least one is a book cypher requiring the correct book. Either way, it’s an engaging read and enjoyable to follow Persis through Bombay as she solves each puzzle in turn.
The manuscript is also of interest to several individuals including an Italian scholar who would like to return it to Dante’s home country of Italy, an American who wants to convince India to allow The Smithsonian to take possession of it, and an unknown man whose interest isn’t immediately evident. The case gets more complex as Persis becomes aware that the manuscript is also being hunted by a Nazi who is in Bombay and using false identification papers.
As Persis works to solve the puzzles and find the manuscript, the co-worker who tried to undermine her in the public eye during a previous case is tasked with solving the murder of a young woman. Persis is given the responsibility of supervising him which leads to clashes between the two as their supervisor tasks them both with learning how to work together. Anger, mistrust, and resentment all appear to hamper the process of these two successfully solving their cases.
Persis is one of the most complex lead characters I’ve encountered lately. She’s prickly, quick to anger, and torn between her desire to be a modern woman with a successful career in the police and the frustration of being overlooked or marginalized by both the men she works with and the public because she is a woman.
The book is excellently written, with a superb plot and a pace that will keep the reader engaged long past their anticipated reading time. It is the second book in the Malabar House series and also works well as a stand alone. If a reader begins the series with this book, it is likely they will want to go and pick up the first one to read while they anxiously await publication of the third one. At least, that is my plan.
My thanks to Hodder and Stoughton Publishers and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy for this review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.