I have had the pleasure of hearing Vaseem Khan speak twice at Granite Noir and was familiar with and had read his Baby Ganesh Agency series, however for some reason I hadn’t got round to his Malabar House series yet.

James Whitby, sentenced to death for the murder of prominent lawyer and former Quit India activist Fareed Mazumdar, is less than two weeks from a date with the gallows. In a last-ditch attempt to save his son, Whitby’s father forces a new investigation into the killing.

The investigation leads Inspector Persis Wadia of the Bombay Police to the old colonial capital of Calcutta, where, with the help of Scotland Yard criminalist Archie Blackfinch, she uncovers a possible link to a second case, the brutal murder of an African-American G.I. during the Calcutta Killings of 1946.

Possibly unusually I entered the series with Death of a Lesser God, the fourth in the series. The series features Persis Wadia, India’s first female police detective and I thought has a different feel to the Baby Ganesh books, possibly due to the more period setting and differing tone. I thought I got to know the characters quite quickly, which is a testament to how well Khan populates the world, and I also thought each character had a clear and distinct voice.

I’ll freely admit I don’t know too much about this time period, or the politics in India at the time, and have to admit that historically much of my knowledge of India before this time comes from Abir Mukherjee’s series of excellent books, but I did feel I came away with more knowledge of this time than I went in, so I worked as both an educational experience and a good read.

Persis is tasked with revisiting a case that was thought to be settled and concluded involving James Whitby, a white man born in India, whose family held significant influence during the British rule. Whitby’s father believes Persis is the person to investigate and with the assistance of her long-time companion, Archie Blackfinch, a criminal investigator from Scotland Yard, Persis follows the trail to Calcutta.


The sights, the sounds, and the smells of the city streets of the 2 cities it’s set in are almost characters in their own right and help to draw us into the plot. Much of the novel is in first person but there were times I felt Persis felt a bit more modern than the setting implied she should be but these were minor things as the strength of the character work very well. The biggest strength of this is Khans easy writing style that means you become immersed in what is a totally different landscape  and story without feeling too alienated. If you haven’t read Vaseem Khan then check him out, I don’t think it’s essential to have read the previous books in this series but that being said I will be going back and reading them but that’s more because of how much I enjoyed the character and book.  

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