Cold, twenty-first century Chicago February got you down? Pick up one of these mystery novels and fall headfirst into the exotic locales offered by these atmospheric novels set in India that wear their exhaustive research lightly.
Perveen Mistry is many things: a devout Parsi, a divorcee, and India's first female lawyer. While she is not allowed to present in court, Perveen proves useful to her father's law firm by being able to interview women male solicitors cannot, including The Widows of Malabar Hill. In Sujata Massey's first entry in a new series, Perveen notices something fishy in the inheritance papers of a wealthy client with three widows who live in purdah, or seclusion from men and the world. Something is indeed out of order, and with the murder of the women's guardian, the mystery kicks into high gear. Full of the sights, sounds, and smells of Bombay and Calcutta in the last decades of the British Raj, this is an immersive tale of a woman ahead of her time, now lost to us.
The Game, also featuring a woman in 1920s India, is considered one of the best of Laurie R. King's well-regarded Mary Russell series. Mary and her husband Sherlock (yup, that one) are sent on a mission to the subcontinent to find Kimball O'Hara, the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling's Kim. They end up making the acquaintance of an upper-class American family and through various machinations, they all end up in the same court of a nasty maharajah. This is another highly evocative piece that illuminates the international tensions of the time as well.
Political tensions abound in Barbara Cleverly's The Last Kashmiri Rose. Joe Sandilands of Scotland Yard is called in by the governor of Bengal to investigate the mysterious death, apparently by suicide, of an officer's wife. Aided by the victim's best friend, Nancy, Joe quickly realizes he has a serial killer on his hands. Once again, it's India in the 1920s, though some in the European enclave prefer to think WW I hasn't happened. Prepare to be immured in a bygone era in this tricky mystery that won the Debut Dagger Award from the Crime Writer Association.
Jumping back 90 years from our other novels, The Strangler Vine is Miranda Carter's fiction debut. Young officer William Avery is to accompany master of disguise Jeremiah Blake in search of the author of a scandalous novel that is causing social unrest. Highly involved are members of the Thuggee cult, which echelons of the British East India Company have sworn to quash. The plot twists and turns, and the conclusion is both gobsmacking and completely logical. Carter pulls no punches about the corruption of colonialism and political expediency in this well-researched novel.
Got more mysteries set in colonial India? Tell us about them in the comments.