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THE LOST MAN OF BOMBAY by Vaseem Khan: Book Review

In 1950 Bombay, Persis Wadia is the only female police inspector on the city’s police force.  She’s learned to ignore the insults and unflattering remarks made by her colleagues, the most annoying being Hermant Oberoi.  He misses no opportunity to belittle her, both privately and in front of her fellow officers, and now, much to Persis’ dismay, she has been assigned to one of his cases.

High in the Himalayas, two men on an expedition come across a body in a cave.  He’s nicknamed The Ice Man because no identification is found on him, so it’s up to the small Bombay division to which Persis is assigned to discover who the man was and why he was in the cave, wearing almost no clothes and with his face brutally battered, possibly to make identifying him impossible.  All that can be seen is that he is a white man, a European.

The only item found on him is a small notebook with BOMBAY PRESS 1943 stamped on the flyleaf.  Aside from maps of India and a few scribbled notes, Persis sees nothing unusual about the notebook until she reaches the end of it.  Three pages have been torn out and a fourth page asking that in the event of The Ice Man’s death the journal be sent to his wife.  But without the man’s name or address or even his nationality, that request is a dead end.

Then Persis is assigned to an even more problematic case.  The lead investigator is the afore-mentioned Hermant Oberoi, a man who is not silent about his belief that the force is no place for a woman.  Nevertheless, the two of them must work together on a double murder case, that of Stephen and Leela Renzi.  The Renzis were apparently asleep in the bedroom of their Bombay mansion when they were attacked; he was bludgeoned to death and her throat was slit.

The brutal murder of Stephen Renzi strikes Persis as similar to that of The Ice Man, with both men sustaining injuries that made their faces virtually unrecognizable.  But what could possibly be the connection between the deaths of these two men seven years apart?

Then comes a third murder, this time a Catholic priest beaten and placed on the altar of his church.  Again, the only common thread between the deaths is that Peter Gruenwald had had his face beaten almost to a pulp.  What brought about the deaths of these three white men, seemingly unknown to each other?  And why were the last two beaten so severely about their faces, since in these cases the beatings did nothing to hinder their identification?

The Lost Man of Bombay is a wonderful addition to the story of Persis Wadia.  Getting to know the all-too-human inspector, we see her difficulties in facing her father’s remarriage, her problematic relationship with the Englishman Archie Blackfinch, and the stresses she encounters at work.  Vaseem Khan has created characters and a plot that are very realistic, the Bombay setting is fascinating, and Persis is an engaging heroine, faults and all.

You can read more about Vaseem Khan at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.


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