Midnight at Malabar House by Vaseem Khan (post Partition India)
This encapsulated everything I like in books - history, family saga, mystery, detective, a touch of geography and politics of the glass ceiling. All hot topics for me.
The story set in post partition Bombay involves Persis a Parsi (tiny minority in India and in the world actually) eloquent, educated and determined to hold her own in a terribly male dominated profession - the police force in India. The only and first female detective in India but one who has to fight every step of the way to get recognition from her peers, from her superiors and even the public whom she tries to help.
A murder of a English diplomat at the height of a dinner party despite lots of people around, security, his personal servants etc and no one saw or heard anything. The victim was found minus his trousers which added to the mystery and Persis and her team are put in charge of the investigation. Mainly with the reason that if the investigation falls flat, the blame will squarely fall on her shoulders and those of her precinct, all of whom other than her have come there as a result of what is usually called a "punishment transfer" for some misdeed done. Her colleagues all have a chip on their shoulder and some of them are out gunning for her, not liking her status, her position and her confidence.
Going back and forth from the victim's mansion and his coterie of domestics to the far outskirts of Amritsar and the Punjab and coming back again the story winds around with a sad ending. Not the ending that was envisaged but one which sought to cover political ills in a system and one where everyone came smelling of roses. Persis is not happy but she cannot endanger the careers of many with her wanting to speak out the truth. A fine enactment of what happens everyday in most countries even today.
I loved the setting, the detailed history of the antagonism which exists and which politicians try to play down, the insistence on one's community, religion and caste so important in not just India but many Asian countries and the deep rooted hatred built up over centuries sometimes not understood by those outside these realms. Beautifully written about and fascinating reading. This was a real winner for me.
Sent by Hodder & Stoughton for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.