Review: Murder in Old Bombay by Nev March

The cover of this book screamed adventure and oozed exotic atmosphere so I couldn’t wait to check it out as soon as it came in the mail.

This is the author’s debut novel and it promised a far away land with a tantalizing murder mystery plus a little romance. I haven’t read anything set in India in quite some time. Not to mention something that sounded so fresh and different but yet familiar and comforting like a historical mystery is.

This book came in at 400 pages so a little longer than a typical historical mystery but considering the setting, I was looking forward to what I hoped would be loads of detail and history!

Summary

In 19th century Bombay, Captain Jim Agnihotri channels his idol, Sherlock Holmes, in Nev March’s Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award-winning debut.

In 1892, Bombay is the center of British India. Nearby, Captain Jim Agnihotri lies in Poona military hospital recovering from a skirmish on the wild northern frontier, with little to do but re-read the tales of his idol, Sherlock Holmes, and browse the daily papers. The case that catches Captain Jim’s attention is being called the crime of the century: Two women fell from the busy university’s clock tower in broad daylight. Moved by Adi, the widower of one of the victims — his certainty that his wife and sister did not commit suicide — Captain Jim approaches the Parsee family and is hired to investigate what happened that terrible afternoon.

But in a land of divided loyalties, asking questions is dangerous. Captain Jim’s investigation disturbs the shadows that seem to follow the Framji family and triggers an ominous chain of events. And when lively Lady Diana Framji joins the hunt for her sisters’ attackers, Captain Jim’s heart isn’t safe, either.

Based on a true story, and set against the vibrant backdrop of colonial India, Nev March’s Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award-winning lyrical debut, Murder in Old Bombay, brings this tumultuous historical age to life. (Summary from Goodreads)

Review

This book started out really really strong. I liked the idea of a calvary captain with a foot in two worlds—-one in the British and one in the Indian. Though I didn’t care for his name (Jim, I would of rather him gone by James) I did enjoy his character who had a lot of baggage for readers to explore and enjoy. He was honorable, charming, smart, articulate, and complex. Same with the secondary characters. They were each memorable and likable but I had a hard time feeling a romantic connection between Diana and the Captain. I am not sure why, but I hoped for more climax and tension between the two and I just didn’t fully immerse myself in their romance.

The setting was rich and full of history which I loved. I know little about the British occupation of India during this time and I didn’t fully understand how the caste system in India worked but I thought the author did a good job helping readers navigate the foreign land and customs. I came away from this one feeling like I got to explore a culture and history that I normally wouldn’t have and I loved this book for that reason.

While I liked the characters, setting, and mystery of the novel, there was something I just didn’t care for and it kept me from loving this book in the way that I had hoped. I felt like the novel tried to jam too much into its narrative. This was a book that I felt could have been split into a series of possibly three books each with a different mystery of some kind. This one tried to address and wrap up numerous plot points in Jim’s story and his history. There were so many times that he got side tracked from the main story (the murder mystery) and I thought that this would have read better if we got to explore his character over the course of a couple of books. The murder mystery could have been the central story throughout a series, but having all the plot points and mystery come together in this single volume made it feel rushed and underdeveloped.

I would have liked to have seen many plot points in Jim’s backstory evolve more and I think it would have made the story feel less rushed. I enjoyed the book but I didn’t love it. The first portion of the story I loved, but as we got more and more into the larger story, the more rushed it felt. I ended up giving this one 3 stars, a great start for this author but needed to feel less rushed.

Book Info and Rating

Hardcover, 400 pages

Published November 10th 2020 by Minotaur Books

ISBN1250269547 (ISBN13: 9781250269546)

Free review copy provided by publisher, Minotaur Books, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.

Rating: 3 stars

Genre: historical mystery, detective novel, cozy mystery

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