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.


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.


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.


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

Book Review – A Murder on Malabar Hill

It is no secret that I love reading murder mysteries and that Dame Agatha Christie is my favorite author in the genre. Last week, as I was picking up a book of Sophie Hannah in the Agatha Christie series, my librarian recommended to me this book – A Murder on Malabar Hill. The synopsis of the book was quite intriguing and I didn’t hesitate to borrow the book.

Book cover of a Murder on Malabar Hill
Book cover of a Murder on Malabar Hill

Written by Sujata Massey, an Indo-German, A Murder on Malabar Hill rolls in Mumbai in 1921 pre-Independent India. Parveen Mistry, a young and intelligent Zoroastrian, joins her father’s prestigious law firm to become one of India’s first female lawyers.

In her very first case, she is appointed to execute the will of Omar Farid, a wealthy mill owner who dies intestate leaving behind three widows and four kids. He also appoints a guardian/caretaker for his estate, mill and family. Parveen’s suspicions are aroused by the anomaly in the will and she is suspicious of the guardian of duping the unworldly wise widows who live in a strict seclusion, never leaving the women’s quarters or speaking to men, until she finds him murdered in his own house.

Who killed him? One of the widows of Omar Farid, one of the servants or someone from the outside? Parveen makes it her business to find out in order to protect the family of Omar Farid.

I like this book on various levels.

Firstly, I fell in love with the protagonist. Parveen Mistry is a feisty young woman who though is bound by the strict rules of society in early 20th century doesn’t give it up easily without a fight. As per the author, Parveen’s character was inspired by India’s earliest women lawyers, Cornelia Sorabji of Poona, the first woman to read law at Oxford and the first woman to sit the British law exam and to be admitted to the Bombay Bar.

Parveen has a disturbing past, but she rises above it, owns up her mistakes and moves on. Also, the author has dealt with the subject of Parveen’s tumultuous past with great sensitivity and respect.

I didn’t know about Purdanashins, the females of the Muslim community who choose to stay in seclusion all their life in zenanas (female rooms) and not to interact with men, except their husbands and sons. The book throws light on them and gives a good insight into their family structure and mental make-up of such women. The book talks not only about the women in seclusion in the Muslim community, but also some of the sordid practices of orthodox Parsi families.

Sujata Massey paints a nostalgic picture of Mumbai of a 100 years ago. The pretty sprawling Anglo-Indian bungalows on Malabar Hill, the Queen’s Necklace, Zaveri Bazaar, Dadar Parsi Colony and the jewel of Colaba – The Taj Mahal Palace. The tongas and man-pulled rickshaws, the stevedores at the Ballard Pier and Irani bakeries like Yazdani serving melt-in-your-mouth Irani confectionery all add to the old-world charm of this majestic city. Mumbai would not have been Mumbai without the generous contribution of the Zoroastrian community, and this book gives a just ode to them.

There are a few nail-biting moments in the book, however, for a murder mystery, I would have expected some more. The mystery was not mysterious enough and even I could see through the killer (I have never been able to crack the murderer in Agatha Christie’s books). So, yes, that was a bit disappointing there, however, the motive for murder was intelligent enough.

The book is more than just a murder mystery, but an introduction to the social life of elite Mumbai in the early 1900s and the stand of women in the society. The book is well researched and the characters are complex and believable.

If you are looking for a finely detailed and tightly woven crime novel like Agatha Christie’s, then you might be disappointed in this book, but if you are looking for an engaging and cozy read with one of its aspects being a murder mystery, you will definitely like this book.

I definitely would want to read all future offerings of Parveen Mistry Investigates.

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 three of them:

2. A book written by a Female author

16. A book on crime-solving

23. A book you bought just because of its cover/a book with a beautiful cover