Murder in Old Bombay

“Poona, February 1892… I turned thirty in hospital, in a quiet, carbolic-scented ward, with little to read but newspapers. Recuperating from my injuries, a slow and tedious business, I’d developed an obsession with a recent story: all of India was shocked by the deaths of two young women who fell from the university clock tower in broad daylight.” 

Murder in Old Bombay
By Nev March
Source: Advance review copy

Jim Agnihotri, an Anglo-Indian army captain recuperating from battle injuries, spends his time reading the newspapers and Arthur Conan Doyle’s mysteries. There is one story though in the newspaper that captures his attention, the death of two women, 19-year-old Bacha and 16-year-old Pilloo, who fell from the university clock tower.

When Jim is able to leave the hospital, he knows it’s time for a new direction in his life and goes to the newspaper where he read about the story and appeals to the editor that he wants to be taken on as an investigative reporter. This quickly puts him in front of Adi Framji, Bacha’s husband and Pilloo’s brother. Soon after they meet, Adi has a better idea, why doesn’t Jim work directly for his family to uncover what happened to his beloved wife and sister.

The Framji family is a prominent Parsee family but Jim feels immediate admiration for Adi’s parents and how kind they are to him but the one person he feels not just admiration but a deeper connection to is, Diana, Adi’s sister who has just arrived from England. As soon as Diana hears that Jim is investigating the deaths of the family members she is not one to sit by but also wants to help find out who could have done this.

As the story unfolds, there is not just the murder mystery to solve, but we see Jim back in military action, rescuing a young girl and several other children, and finally a budding romance between Diana even if it’s met with deep disapproval from Diana’s parents due to Jim not being a Parsee himself.

This novel, which is based on true story, is filled with historical details and adventure. Jim is such a kind and likable hero and you can’t help but wonder what his next disguise will be. He really did take some cues from Sherlock Holmes. Now, there were times I felt the story could have been tightened up a bit more. For example, while I liked the part when Jim becomes responsible for the children at the same time that was one more adventure that took him away from the main issue of solving what happened to Bacha and Pilloo. This happened in a few other instances but having said that if there is a second Jim Agnihotri book I’ll be looking forward to it.

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