Review: The Lost Man of Bombay – Historical crime drama has twists and interesting characters
British writer Vaseem Khan has shown quite comprehensively that he can write historical crime fiction well.
He returns to that territory with this third and latest book in the Malabar house series, which reunites readers with India’s first female detective Persis Wadia.
The story set in 1950s post-colonial Bombay sees her once again trying to solve a seemingly impossible mystery. This time around, the trailblazing sleuth and police criminologist Archie Blackfinch try to solve the mystery of a dead white man found in the Himalayan foothills. When further dead bodies pop up in the city, they are drawn into a conspiracy and possibly towards a serial killer targeting white Europeans.
With very few clues to solve the mystery and having obstacles put in her way, including personal family drama, the fiercely independent female detective is determined to crack the case. Bubbling beneath the multi-layered plot is an intriguing on-off chemistry with non-Asian Archie, which raises questions about mixed-race relationships.
The author once again captures the historical setting well, as he skilfully weaves together a twist-laden plot with politics, interesting characters, and rich cultural descriptions, which transport you to another era. Central to the story is a puzzling mystery strong enough to hold the plot together to make this a solid crime read.
Although lead protagonist Persis is an extraordinarily strong woman for that era, there are times where it is hard to root for her or get emotionally invested in the journey she takes.
There was definite scope to make her more likable. Also, some may find the plot a little too complicated. But that shouldn’t stop you from picking up this drama-filled book. There is enough to bring you back for more of these solidly written police procedurals, which are different to other crime novels.