Book Review: Midnight at Malabar House by Vaseem Khan

Title: Midnight at Malabar House by Vaseem Khan

Rating: 4 stars (🌟🌟🌟🌟)

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

This was a very enjoyable historical mystery/police procedural. Set in the first days of 1950 with the consequences of Partition still churning, Persis, the first woman police officer in her country is tasked with a complicated and politically sensitive murder investigation. Her being the first woman is a major theme here and she's inundated with obstacles along the way but of course, she persists. Her colleagues, all male, were an interesting bunch and had surprises to the very end. I liked Persis and also the insight into her personal relationships with her family. She was determined and cared to find the truth, not just any answer served up to her for expedience. I adored the family bookstore her father maintained and her deep love for him. Even her Aunt Nussie was a good character with her overbearing ways.

The mystery of who killed Sir James Herriot was a tangled one for many reasons. He's found alone in a room with his throat slit and sans trousers. There were burned remnants in the fireplace and his safe is empty. The files of an investigation he was carrying out are missing and it's clear very quickly that he's not the good and honourable man he presents. There were many leads and threads of the investigation and I appreciated the turns it took. I enjoyed the final solution and how Persis arrived at it. I do have to admit that there was a lot of historical information on Partition and that sometimes felt like it slowed down the narrative. I can't imagine how else to have included the information than the way it was done and it was important but at times it did feel a bit like a history lesson, even in a historical novel. Still, I did feel the tension from the characters and understood the depth of it because of those details.

I'd read another by Khan and given that I realized when I reached the end of this that it's the beginning of a series, I suppose I will do.


Summary: As India celebrates the arrival of a momentous new decade, Inspector Persis Wadia stands vigil in the basement of Malabar House, home to the city's most unwanted unit of police officers. Six months after joining the force she remains India's first female police detective, mistrusted, sidelined and now consigned to the midnight shift.

And so, when the phone rings to report the murder of prominent English diplomat Sir James Herriot, the country's most sensational case falls into her lap.

As 1950 dawns and India prepares to become the world's largest republic, Persis, accompanied by Scotland Yard criminalist Archie Blackfinch, finds herself investigating a case that is becoming more political by the second. Navigating a country and society in turmoil, Persis, smart, stubborn and untested in the crucible of male hostility that surrounds her, must find a way to solve the murder - whatever the cost.

Midnight at Malabar House
Vaseem Khan

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