cover image The Astral Alibi

The Astral Alibi

Manjiri Prabhu, . . Bantam, $6.99 (371pp) ISBN 978-0-440-24173-7

Two years after her solid puzzler, The Cosmic Clues , introduced astrologist PI Sonia Samarth, Prabhu returns to Pune, India, for an interlocking series of mysteries that sees Sonia's sleuthing career picking up, her love life getting complicated and her pet cat in danger. After a slow start, this cozy gathers speed, delving into the day-to-day business of Stellar Investigations, the firm Sonia runs with her gung-ho assistant, Jatin. Using the stars, Indian wisdom and Sherlockian logic, Sonia tackles cases involving a pair of onstage deaths, a murdered bride, a famous musician whose fatal heart attack leaves his wife suspicious, and a pair of missing antiques. Meanwhile, Sonia has to deal with threatening notes ("Stop the astrological nonsense or you will never see your cat again!"), a mysterious figure in white and the romantic advances of both a reporter and a notorious thief. Prabhu's breathless tone propels and charms, and the depiction of contemporary Indian culture keeps even mundane scenes interesting. With her smart, stand-tough heroine, Prabhu should secure new fans with this series entry. (July)