Novel Destinations: Mysterious India

As regular readers of this blog know, I like mysteries and I like India. So, here's another installment combining the two. They're all set during the British colonial period, and several have strong female characters. Most, though not all, are set during the 1920's. Make yourself comfortable and enjoy these suspenseful tales set in interesting times.

Sujata Massey's second book to star the intrepid Perveen Mistry is titled The Satapur Moonstone. Ms. Mistry is once again called on to assist secluded women, this time in the fictional kingdom of Satapur. There is a dispute over where a young maharaja is to be educated and the specter of untimely death hangs over the palace. Mistry has to deal with some unsavory characters, some more nefarious than not, and there's the faint whiff of romance for a woman who thought she put her heart away. 

Femme fatales abound in Barbara Cleverly's Ragtime in Simla, featuring Detective John Sandilands. Sandilands is on his way to the summer retreat of the Raj when his traveling companion is killed by a sniper. Curiously, an almost identical death occurred a year ago in the same spot. Sandilands investigates in this intriguing novel of deception and surreptitious vice.

Both a mystery and a comedy of manners, Arjun Gaind's Death at the Durbar starts with Maharaja Sikander Singh once again both profoundly bored by his royal duties and distinctly unimpressed by English culture. This in no way stops him from making a decidedly Sherlockian set of observations in a dancer's murder meant to embarrass George IV during his visit to India. Paired with an unctuous and unwelcome sidekick, Singh sets out to save the empire in this witty and descriptive homage to the golden age of mystery.

Abir Mukherjee's Smoke and Ashes finds protagonist Sam Wyndham skating on some pretty thin ice. Nearly caught in a raid of an opium den by his police colleagues, Wyndham stumbles across two similar murders that the authorities seem particularly uninterested in. There are also protests over the visit of the Prince of Wales to contend with in this thought-provoking immersion in late-empire Calcutta.

I thought I'd throw in Anne Perry's A Christmas Garland, since it is that time of year. A young Capt. Victor Narroway, whom Perry fans will recognize from other novels, is charged with defending a man being court-martialed in restive Cawnpore. Things look bad until Narroway gets some help from a pair of children. While this plot sounds like that of a Hallmark Channel piece, Perry dispenses with all the sugary pap that constitute most Christmas novels in this often grim, well-described novel of the dawn of the British Raj.

Have more historical mysteries set in India? Please tell us in the comments.

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