23 September 2021

Review: THE SATAPUR MOONSTONE, Sujata Massey

  • This edition an e-book from Libby through my local library
  • ISBN: 9781760529420
  • Publisher: Allen & Unwin, May 2020
  • Page Extent: 384
  • #2 in the Perveen Mistry series
  • Winner of the Lefty Award for Best Historical Mystery!
  • Nominated for the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction!
  • Nominated for the The G.P. Putnam’s Sons Sue Grafton Memorial Award and the Macavity Award for Best Historical Mystery! 
  • author website

Synopsis (publisher

The delightfully clever Perveen Mistry, Bombay's first female lawyer, returns in an adventure of treacherous intrigues and suspicious deaths.

India, 1922: It is rainy season in the lush, remote Sahyadri Mountains southeast of Bombay, where the kingdom of Satapur is tucked away. A curse has fallen upon Satapur's royal family, whose maharaja and his teenage son are both dead. The kingdom is now ruled by an agent of the British Raj on behalf of Satapur's two maharanis, the dowager queen and the maharaja's widow.

The royal ladies are in dispute over the education of the young crown prince, and a lawyer's council is required - but the maharanis live in purdah and do not speak to men. Just one woman can help them: Perveen Mistry.

Perveen is determined to bring peace to the royal house, but when she arrives she finds that the Satapur palace is full of cold-blooded power plays and ancient vendettas. Too late, she realises she has walked into a trap. But whose? And how can she protect the royal children from the deadly curse on the palace?

My Take

Perveen Mistry is commissioned to visit the small kingdom of Satapur to talk to its two maharanis about what needs to be done about the education of its young maharajah. His father and older brother have both died in the past year, and the kingdom currently comes under the agency of the British Raj. The local agent has been unable to talk to the maharanis because they observe strict purdah and his visits have been rejected.

They will not have the same objection to Perveen Mistry because she is female and she is a lawyer. Perveen's father, head of their legal firm in Bombay, thinks the journey to Satapur will be dangerous, and he is not keen for her to take the task on. Perveen on the other hand sees the commission as a great opportunity to branch out on her own. She is to travel to the British circuit house to meet the local agent by palanquin, and then go on to the Satapur palace to meet with the maharanis.

I was impressed by the evident research undertaken by the author, and feeling of authenticity and depth of historical background to the story. The characters are well fleshed out, and it is apparent that Perveen is not going to find her task an easy one. Here is India 100 years ago, Gandhiji is a young man and is admired by Perveen, and independence is a long way off.

Well worth reading.

My rating: 4.5

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