In the recent times I have read murder mysteries set in the retro Bombay. This seems to be a fast becoming sub genre. And to my list of such vintage Bombay-centric murder mysteries, I recently added Murder in old Bombay by Nev March. The book is published by HarperCollins India.

This book is set three decades after India’s first war of Independence, after the 1857 uprising. We see an affluent Parsee household of Bombay that is grieving the death of two of its daughters. This was a cold blooded murder. The deceased were pushed to their death but Britishers have imprisoned a particular Maneck without much investigations and shut the case forever. But on the other side of the spectrum is Holmes lover, ex-army officer, Captain James Agnihotri who is disturbed by this bizarre case. As soon as he is out of the hospital he knocks on the door of a newspaper office asking them to employ him so that he can look into the murders anew. But there’s a catch, infact, many. Namely. There are only two pieces of evidence available from the crime scene. There are only a few witnesses who may have deflected. And Agnihotri is at the crime scene months after the verdict is given and case, closed.

Considering this is the retro Bombay there must have been a lot of footwork involved when it comes to writing. The absence of technology took months to get to the culprit and to unfurl the drama. But perhaps that’s what kept me glued to this book. The pace kept fluctuating and it did seem a bit dragged yet I wasn’t giving up till I knew who the murderer was. Which also means that it was unpredictable. But this book zig zags so many times and inserts so many characters that the luster starts evaporating for a non-seasoned thriller reader.

However, what is commendable is the regency era ambience that’s retained throughout alongside the lingo. And the staggering twists that greet us at every turn. Add to that the dreamy and poetic language – “The Arabian ran as if power and poetry were one, her hooves eager for wide ground and open skies.” Plus the book deftly mingles facts and fiction.

Last word – This book is a thriller but it is out-and-out a leisure read. If you are looking for a fast paced thriller to complement the chilly weather then you can look elsewhere.

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