The Satapur Moonstone

Most people would probably consider mysteries and thrillers to be a similar, if not the same, genre. And while there are a lot of similarities, I think they are quite distinct, even if it’s not so easy to explain. Mysteries, I think, draw you along with obvious clues. Not to say the mystery is obvious, but you know what clues are important and which aren’t. Thrillers, I think, tend to play with your mind. You know one of a number of things could be going on, and each one of them could prove to be correct. Thrillers keep you on the edge of your seat guessing. Mysteries keep you on the edge of your seat because you know one more clue and everything will fall into place.

I’ve started uncovering some more diverse mystery novels, ones that aren’t quite as heavy as what I often read. It started with Alexander McCall Smith’s series, and I’ve found another series with Sujata Massey’s Perveen Mistry series. Though The Satapur Moonstone is the second book in the series, they seem to be able to stand alone, as well.

Set in 1920s India, Perveen Mistry is working to hold her own as one of India’s first female lawyers. But when one of the princely states, Satapur, requires legal help, Perveen is the only one who is qualified. The two maharanis–the dowager queen and the late maharaja’s widow–are unable to make a decision about the new, young maharaja’s education. And living in purdah–completely separate from men outside of their immediate family– Perveen is in the unique position to be able to mediate a compromise.

But when Perveen arrives, she finds things aren’t as simple as she expected. It’s as though a curse lies upon the family, and Perveen doesn’t know who to trust, and who might be out for blood. And she could be caught in the middle.

Massey’s series gives a look at India under British rule, leaving readers with a desire to know a little bit more about that era and culture. And her character was partially inspired by a real woman, Cornelia Sorabji.

Massey does an excellent job of dropping clues about the mystery without revealing everything too early. Weaving palace drama in with Perveen’s legal investigation, you know who is keeping important secrets, but like Perveen, the reader has to wait until they are revealed. It’s easy to see why her writing had received several awards.

All in all, it’s definitely a series I’m interested in pursing. And I’m interested in her other works as well. She thoroughly researches the culture she’s writing about, creating compelling characters and realistic settings.

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