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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Friday, October 25, 2019

The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey

The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey - For her second legal mystery Indian solicitor, Perveen Mistry, travels from her Bombay home into the Sahyadri Mountains to the princely state of Satapur.

It is 1922. Mistry, the first woman lawyer in Bombay, has been asked by a senior councilor to the English Governor, Sir David Hobson-Jones - father of her best friend Alice - to meet with the widow, the maharani Mirabai, and the mother, the dowager maharani Putlabai, of the late maharaja of Satapur. The women are locked in a dispute over the education of his son, the maharaja Jiva Rao, who is 10 years old. Mother wants him to go to boarding school in England while Grandmother wants him tutored at home.

Mistry has been retained because, as a woman, she can meet directly with the women who are in seclusion observing purdah after the maharaja’s death.

In the first book of the series, The Widows of Malabar Hill, Mistry was able to resolve an estate and solve a murder because her status as a woman allowed her to meet with women who are in seclusion.

After hours on the train and more hours riding a mail cart she arrives at the remote principality. While the dispute began 6 months earlier the rainy season had effectively cut off communications.

The Prime Minister, Prince Swaroop, is the brother of the late maharajah and the son of the dowager maharani.

Mistry gains some information from the English representative, Colin Sandringham. He is considered a cripple in the Indian Civil Service as he has lost part of a leg.

To reach the palaces of the maharanis Mistry must travel by palanquin and foot. The uncomfortable nature of a swaying palanquin over rough trails seems hardly better than walking.

The maharanis are free with barbed remarks about each other with little regard to the effect upon the children.

Mirabai is convinced her older son was murdered and her younger son is in mortal danger. Mistry, having heard of the recent deaths of husband and older son, has suspicions concerning their deaths.

The maharanis practise a form of purdah that has more accessibility than the rigid Muslim practice of seclusion.

Can Mistry find a solution balancing the contrary opinions of two strong willed women?

She is precisely logical in her analysis of the educational options and in her recommendation.

The drama does not end with her visit to the palaces of the maharanis. Will her status as a representative of the Crown protect her against danger? I am not fond of legal mysteries where the lawyer is put at risk physically. I was pleasantly surprised when Mistry uses her legal skills in a risky situation.

Once again Mistry is involved in a major estate dispute where the surviving women are in conflict. They may have little contact with the world outside the palaces but they are fierce in advancing their positions. Mistry may have found a niche in handling disputed estates.

I did miss that there was little more in The Satapur Moonstone about Mistry’s life. Taking her out of Bombay severly limits the contacts that would expand our knowledge of her past and present personal life. I liked the opening book, The Widows of Malabar Hill, better for its portrayal of Mistry’s life.

I wondered if the title was inspired by one of the earliest mysteries ever written, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. It was first published in 1868. I read it some time ago and thought it has held up well as a mystery 149 years later.

I intend to read the next in the series.

7 comments:

  1. It sounds as though this has the same sense of history and atmosphere that the first one did, Bill, and I like that in a novel. And Mistry is an interesting character, which always adds to a story for me. It's an interesting case, too. I'm glad you thought it was a good read.

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    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Massey is building her character and those around her. I am looking forward to her next big case.

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  2. I was deep into this book, barely coming up for air. But coming up to look at maps of Western India and the real villages near Massey's fictional ones, reading about all sorts of things mentioned in the book. And reading about Gandhi's independence movement, which the main character supports. Very interesting about him.
    Got a lot out of this book and the research while reading it.
    I would go stir crazy living in a palace with nothing to do, so I'm glad some of these wealthy women do something. I hope life is more egalitarian now. There are more women lawyers, for sure.

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    1. Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment. While the servant put it well that it is better than working long long hours at physical labour it would have been incredibly boring.

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  3. Yes, doing backbreaking work in the fields or other physical work can be torture. I think of the Chinese workers who built the U.S. railroads in the West under horrible, oppressive conditions.

    But to sit in a palace all day doing nothing. At least they could read if they could read.

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    1. Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment. I cannot conceive a life of just sitting around all day. Reading would help but it appears to be a sterile existence.

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  4. Yes. Agree. Living with no purpose or work or enjoyment is pretty empty.

    I've had jobs where I had little to nothing to do and sat in an empty office. I regret that I didn't take advantage of the situation and get a library card and just read. I could have read so much.

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