Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Murder in Old Bombay by Nev March
Published by Minotaur Books on November 10, 2020
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Amazon, Audible, Audiobook
In 1892, Bombay is the center of British India. Nearby, Captain Jim Agnihotri lies in Poona military hospital recovering from a skirmish on the wild northern frontier, with little to do but re-read the tales of his idol, Sherlock Holmes, and browse the daily papers. The case that catches Captain Jim's attention is being called the crime of the century: Two women fell from the busy university’s clock tower in broad daylight. Moved by Adi, the widower of one of the victims — his certainty that his wife and sister did not commit suicide — Captain Jim approaches the Parsee family and is hired to investigate what happened that terrible afternoon.
But in a land of divided loyalties, asking questions is dangerous. Captain Jim's investigation disturbs the shadows that seem to follow the Framji family and triggers an ominous chain of events. And when lively Lady Diana Framji joins the hunt for her sisters’ attackers, Captain Jim’s heart isn’t safe, either.
There are certain captivating words that will have me snatching up a debut book without seeing its cover or reading its blurb. I saw ‘murder’ and I saw ‘Old Bombay’ and it was a done deal. I love historical mysteries particularly when set in an exotic (to me) location.
Murder in Old Bombay takes place during India’s British-run colonial period. The main character was a blend of British and Indian due to his heritage of Indian mother and unknown British father. Captain Jim Agnihotri was reared in an orphanage and joined the British army, first as a horse handler, and then worked his way up the ranks pretty much as far as someone from his background could hope to go. He was in an ugly skirmish that left him in hospital and a need to do something new with his life. Reading about a horrific pair of deaths, and subsequent trial in the newspapers, gave him the idea to offer his services as a private detective in the spirit of his favorite fictional hero, Sherlock Holmes.
This book did not feel like a debut much of the time. For one, there are many layers and elements that weave together well. The historical backdrop and historical background of the setting and characters was well-developed. For those who have no clue about Indian history, the blended culture of British and Indians in Victorian era India, Indian religious, racial, and social backgrounds, or British military, this book fills one in without bogging down the story. I loved that I was able to see with my imagination the place and people with the descriptions.
Jim was a colorful and engaging lead character. He is both just what he seems and a great deal morewhich is revealed as the story unfolds. He’s a man caught between two worlds, without family or family history, and lonely for what he sees in his new friends’ family group as a result. He’s protective and loyal as a result without much bitterness. He gets beaten down, but gets right back up to keep going.
This started as a typical historical murder mystery in format, but then it added some action adventures for Jim. He also gets a chance to explore his past and figure out a complicated romance. It has everything, really.
All in all, I was enthralled with this author’s first effort and I hope she returns to historic India with more murder mysteries. Those who love this genre should definitely consider this book.
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