Perveen Mistry, an "Indian-born Zoroastrian," is Bombay's first female solicitor in this lush, captivating debut series about 1920s Bombay. Prohibited from appearing in front of a judge, Perveen is restricted to writing briefs and researching law until the widows of Malabar Hill need help. In this case, Perveen's gender gives her an advantage as the three women live in purdah, "strict seclusion" behind "jali walls and windows."

With compassion and understanding, Sujata Massey's narrative shifts between Perveen's anguished past and the plight of the widows, unveiling fascinating details about the complicated, dutiful lives of women in Bombay. Massey draws an especially ­poignant and ironic analogy between Perveen's struggle to succeed against her culture's misogyny while India struggles against the vestiges of its colonial rulers.

Carole E. Barrowman teaches writing at Alverno College in Milwaukee.

The Widows of Malabar Hill
By: Sujata Massey.
Publisher: Soho Crime, 400 pages, $26.95.
Events: 7 p.m. Thu., Once Upon a Crime, 604 W. 26th St., Mpls.; 7 p.m. Fri., SubText, 6 W. 5th St., St. Paul.