The Lost Man Of Bombay (2022) by Vaseem Khan

Bombay, 1950

Inspector Persis Wadia is assigned to a near impossible case. The body of a white man has been found frozen in the Himalayan foothills near Dehra Dun. Dead for a number of years with no identification and unrecognisable due to facial injuries, it seems that the case is over before it has even begun, except for the fact that there is pressure due to national interest to find the truth about the so-called Ice Man.

Making no progress, Persis is distracted by a case much nearer to home. Two Europeans are found in quick succession, both brutally murdered in their homes. With her colleague determined to arrest the first viable suspect for the first death that he comes across, Persis is convinced that the two victims are linked. Soon, however, she discovers that it is more than these two deaths that have something in common…

Book Three in the Malabar House series, following Midnight At Malabar House and The Dying Day. I mentioned in my review of the latter book that it had was more of a police procedural (with a treasure hunt!) than the first, which was more of a classic whodunnit, and this one takes the same direction. This is the story of Persis finding out what happened, rather than a game for the reader to play, although I would point out that Vaseem Khan does include a coded message for the reader to try and work out. I’m not saying that as a complaint, by the way, but I know some of my readers will want to know whereabouts on the whodunnit spectrum this lies. I was a little wrong-footed going into The Dying Day as it wasn’t quite what I expected, structurally, but going into this one with more open expectations allowed me to enjoy it properly.

As an historical police procedural, this book is a triumph, combining an engrossing and well-paced investigation, along with a stunning recreation of 1950’s India, a country dealing with its new-found independence. The amount of research and detail put into the setting is outstanding and it really brings to vivid life a place and time that I know next to nothing of at all.

Add in the character of Persis, with her struggles against some of her colleagues refusing to accept her abilities and rank, along with her personal dilemmas, both with her father and her relationship to the British criminalist Archie Blackfinch, and this is an utterly absorbing thriller. If you enjoyed the previous two books in the series, then you will certainly enjoy this one just as much, if not more.

Many thanks to the publishers for the e-copy via NetGalley. The Lost Man Of Bombay is out on Thursday 18th August in hardback and ebook.

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