cover image The Mistress of Bhatia House

The Mistress of Bhatia House

Sujata Massey. Soho Crime, $27.95 (432p) ISBN 978-1-64129-329-7

Set in 1922 India, Massey’s provocative fourth entry in her Perveen Mistry series (following 2022’s The Bombay Prince) finds Perveen, Bombay’s only female solicitor, volunteering to defend a young ayah who has been arrested for inducing her own abortion. The woman denies she was ever pregnant, and as Perveen investigates, she slowly uncovers corruption, fraud, and possibly murder, all tied to the misappropriation of funds raised for a women’s hospital. Things get more complicated when Perveen’s sister-in-law, suffering from severe postpartum depression, leaves her newborn with Perveen’s parents and goes home to her mother. The complex mystery sometimes takes a backseat to Massey’s deep dive into social issues during the Raj, especially the lack of rights for women of all classes. Those matters are mostly well-handled, though—through Perveen, readers see an Oxford-educated lawyer from a privileged family plausibly contend with the sexism and racism of her time and place—and when Massey returns to the plot’s core mystery, she manages some nifty suprises. This is a transporting mystery. Agent: Vicky Bijur, Vicky Bijur Literary. (July)