Book cover of The Satapur Moonstone

Book Review – The Satapur Moonstone

A few months ago, I had read Sujata Massey’s The Murder on Malabar Hill and was quite impressed with her writing skills. If you would like to read the book review, just click here.

So, when I came across another mystery from her, I picked it up without a second thought.

Plot

Perveen Mistry is engaged by Kolhapur Agency, a subdivision of the British Government in India, to rule over princely states in the Western Ghat region, which are left without male rulers and/or whose princes are still not of age to take over the throne. One such princely state is Satapur that has undergone a double tragedy. Not only it lost its maharaja due to a sudden illness, but also lost the teenage prince in a tragic hunting accident. The state is now run by an agent of the British Raj and the dowager queen and her daughter in law.

The royal ladies are in a bitter argument over the education of the young crown prince, and because these ladies are in purdah, a ladies’ counsel is sought. Perveen being the only female lawyer in India visits the palace in the hope to find an amicable solution to the problem, but little does she know that the palace is full of hidden perils for the royal family and herself.

Review

I am in love with the bold female protagonist, Perveen Mistry. The writer did a fine work of building up Perveen’s character in her first book. However, for people who read The Satapur Moonstone before The Murder on Malabar Hill will be slightly confused as there are numerous references to Perveen’s past in this book. Perveen seems to have lost her chutzpah in this book, she is making one assumption after another without any evidence to back her assumptions.

There is a motley of characters in this story, most of them interesting. For example, I liked the royal jester, Aditya’s character. However, most others disappointed me. The British agent Colin’s character starts on an interesting note; his foot is amputated, but he practices Yoga daily, there was a lot of scope to involve him in the story. But Colin is quickly pushed into the background resurfacing from time to time more as a support to Perveen than a strong lead, which I found disappointing. Colin would have made an excellent ally to Perveen.

The plot is thick and luscious, the characters are fascinating and the mystery is involving, but alas, the writer is not able to carry it through. It’s like one has the perfect recipe and awesome ingredients, but the chef is having a bad day. That’s what I felt here. The story could have benefitted from a tighter writing. The mysteries of the lost and found camera and Roderick Ames were not followed through.

I found the description of food very evocative. Ten different types of chicken that cook Rama prepares, the kipper that Perveen is loathe to eat at the Royal Western India Turf Club and kande pohe that the cook of Vandana Mehta prepares build up colorful images. Also, I loved the care with which Massey describes the saris that Perveen and the royal ladies wear.

The book touched Perveen’s need for physical and emotional companionship and also created a romantic angle between Perveen and Colin; hope the writer builds on it in her next book, that should be something to look forward to.

Verdict

The Satapur Moonstone might not be as gripping as Sujata Massey’s first one, but still it’s a good read. I would definitely recommend.

I am taking part in the Write Tribe Reading Challenge and I have opted to read 24 books this year (though I am hoping to read more). There are 24 prompts given, and this book adheres to one of them. Seriously, only one!!

2. A book written by a Female author

16. A book on crime-solving

20. A book which is a 2019 release

The Hand of Death

Short Fiction Story for Write Tribe Festival #WriteBravely
The Hand of Death

“You’d never believe me if I told you that I saw Rohini Ghatge getting murdered, but it’s true and I can prove it. Just come over at 5 today.” Rohan told Mira, his on-again-off-again girlfriend who was presently off-again again.

After disconnecting the call, he ran a frantic hand in his hair. He couldn’t sleep since that eventful night. And he was going crazy with lack of sleep. On top of that, his editor was giving him a hard time for not finishing the article. He wasn’t even ready to consider the fact that Rohan had never missed a deadline before.

Even without meaning to, he kept on reliving the night over and over again.

It was quarter past two and Rohan was nowhere finished with the article. At this rate he wouldn’t be able to meet his deadline if the blaring music from above went on. The last time he had knocked at her door, she had promised to wrap up the party soon. An hour later, though the dancing had stopped, the sounds hadn’t abated much. Frustrated, he walked towards the door. He had played good neighbour long enough.

The door was slightly ajar. He didn’t press the bell; who would have listened to it in that pandemonium anyway. He stepped inside.

Where was everybody? The lights were on; empty bottles and glasses were strewn in all nooks and corner. A heavy stench of cigarette smoke filled his nostrils, but he could see nobody. Then he detected a movement in the balcony.

Through the see-through glass door, Rohan could see Rohini, his neighbour standing on the balcony. She looked at him; fear in her eyes.  Before he could think or react, he saw a diamanté gloved hand on her throat pushing her. She lost her balance and the next moment toppled over the marble balustrade. Rohan heard a loud scream as she did a free fall. Suddenly he realized that he had not only witnessed a murder, but also, he could be seen by the killer any moment. Quietly he ran out of the apartment.

He closed his apartment door and put on the locks and latches. The killer had not seen him but he was still scared. As his breathing returned to normal, he heard a great commotion outside the balcony. He went to the balcony and saw a big crowd in the parking below. She was lying, on the top of a white car, lifeless.

The next day, newspapers carried the story of her death.  “Lonely over-the-hill TV actress committed suicide’. They called it suicide, not murder. But Rohan knew otherwise.

Who killed her? He asked himself. There were some twenty-odd people in her penthouse when he had visited the apartment to complain of the loud noise. But later there was no one.

That afternoon Mira came right on time. She had a very irritating habit of being punctual. But, today, he was not complaining.

Rohan and Mira visited Rohini’s apartment for the condolence meet called for by her sister. Though he was hardly as they called it “in the inner circle” of the actress, they had exchanged pleasantries many a times while waiting for the elevator.

“But, you don’t know either the killer or the motive behind the murder?” Mira was doubtful.

“Finding motive is not my job, the Police can do that. But, I know the way of finding out the killer.” Rohan was confident.

Rohan had a purpose in going back to the apartment. He had a plan, he just needed to execute it. The same living room which the other night was the hub of one of the noisiest parties Rohan had ever seen was now painfully silent. There was a big crowd but Rohan and Mira stood silently in one corner. Rohan was closely observing the people in the room. He knew the killer was known to Rohini or else Rohini wouldn’t have invited to her party.

He went to the balcony. Squatting down, he picked up an imaginary something off the floor. He went on to make a great show of squinting his eye and looking at the object closely. If his plan went well, the killer would be out in the open in the next 5 minutes. He looked up and caught the eye of a woman. A tall and sturdy woman walked towards him.

“What have you found?” She asked him gruffly. Fear and menace evident in her eyes.

“The proof to nail down the killer,” He replied confidently.

Suddenly her expressions changed, like a wild boar she leapt at Rohan. Anticipating this, he ducked in time.

“She killed Rohini…I saw it,” Rohan announced.

That night Rohan slept like a baby.

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I am participating in the Write Tribe Festival of Words – June 2018

Write Tribe Festival, Short Fiction, Flash fiction