Murder in Old Bombay by Nev March

Murder in Old Bombay by Nev Marchis an own-voices Indian (Parsee) historical crime mystery novel that revolves around a biracial man named Jim Agnihotri who is recuperating in a hospital after his time in the Afghan War where he learns about the unfortunate demise of two women in Bombay. Upon reading the newspapers, which have touted the deaths as suicide, Agnihotri feels that there is something strange going on and that there is much more to the case than appears to the naked eye. Freshly motivated by the deductive prowess of one Sherlock Holmes, Agnihotri decides to investigate the case on his own.

Murder in Old Bombay is an excellently written piece of historical fiction that is both transportive and insightful about an era that is rarely seen within the genre, the British occupation of India during the late 1800s. Coupled with the portrayal of a biracial identity and a curious crime mystery, readers shall have a pleasantly engaging reading experience, more so if they fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s dynamic detective duo, Sherlock Holmes and James Watson, from which the story derives heavy inspiration.

My favourite aspect of the novel is the main character, Jim Agnihotri himself. Because he has two racial backgrounds—British and Indian—he feels quite a bit of a disconnect from both identities, like a wanderer just on the cusp of a border, able to see and hear the culture without ever feeling like he belongs to either one. This is something that we see mirrored in the interactions that Jim has with others, and an element that also works as a subtle form of allegory for the delicate political strife in India at the time (1892). Lastly, it makes it easier to empathise and connect with Jim on a personal level, humanising him in a manner that makes the reader want to keep reading.

When Jim meets Adi, the man who is related to the two women that died, their bond is almost instant. Adi can see the sincerity in Jim’s desire of wanting to uncover the truth for the sake of it rather than taking the periodical’s story at face value and it makes Adi confide in the soldier. Their bond eventually starts to feel like the beginnings of a found family dynamic, which I positively adored.

The investigation itself ends up  being far more complex than I expected it to be and it was fun trying to connect the clues before they were revealed on page. It also takes us into the heart of Bombay where we see how people born of multi-ethnicities are treated, spurned and subjugated to ostracism that illustrates the rift between the British colonists and their Indian commonwealth. Since the book takes place only a decade prior to the Partition of Bengal in 1907, which was preceded by an intense political struggle of socialist reforms, the socio-political ambiance of Bombay is quite anxious and stiff. Jim’s use of disguises also work to depict the many faces and circumstances of the people of India, which was a neat way of sharing the atmosphere of the time period.   

The writing was very impressive! One of the things the author accomplished fairly well is the mannerisms, etiquette, and social exchanges of the 1890s. Most of the time, I felt as if I were standing beside the characters as they conversed, or watching a marvellous film where everything was portrayed with careful authenticity. The ability to write so instinctively for a period that is over 130 years in the past can be challenging, but Ms March makes it feel beautifully effortless.

If there is anything that may be a narrative repellent to some readers it is that the context of British India’s conflicts can feel somewhat detached from the mystery plotline as a whole. While I appreciate its inclusion as it creates a fully enthralling sense of environment that is transportive,  it does cause the story to feel a bit drawn out. Another element that could be somewhat frustrating are the constant references to Holmes and Watson, highlighting their influences with a strong on-the-nose aura. Folx who are unfamiliar with Sherlock Holmes may appreciate the allusions more than those who are already quite well-versed in the Holmes’ tales. My hope is that these references shall dimmish in the forthcoming sequel and as the series goes on.

Overall, I really enjoyed Murder in Old Bombay. It was a superbly written debut that shows the author’s natural talent at writing for the historical fiction genre. The suspense and air of mystery held fast, and the characters did not fall flat or fall to one-dimensional blunders. I highly recommend this to readers of the historical fiction genre, as well as to individuals who find pleasure in mysteries akin to the works of Agatha Christie and Sir Conan Arthur Doyle, but far more diverse!


Please note that I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review, courtesy of Minotaur Books.

Publication Date: 10-November-2020
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Indian Literature, Historical Fiction, Crime Mystery
Page Count: 400
Content Warnings: Mention of suicide. Mention of wartime violence. Racism. Colonialism. Murder.
GoodReads: Murder in Old Bombay by Nev March

Caturday Reads: Indian Crime Mystery & Chinese Urban Fantasy

Good morning, bibliophiles! This past week has been rather uneventful for me aside from falling into a deep reading rut. Luckily, I was able to read small titbits at a time throughout the week, but I do miss being able to sit down and binge page after page after page. After dealing with this lack of reading frustration for approximately six to seven days, I finally went ahead and meditated to clear my mind of everything that was bogging me down. Alhamdulillah, that seemed to have done the trick (at least based off this morning’s reading session, which lasted a full forty minutes!).

Not wanting to waste a single second of these newfound reading energies, I decided to pick up a few books to check out over the next couple days and possibly into the upcoming week. One of them is an ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy) of one of my most-anticipated historical crime mysteries of 2020, while the other one is a Chinese urban fantasy novel that has been on my to-be-read list for the better part of two and a half years! One of my favourite BookTubers is running a group readalong for the title, so I figured it is an excellent excuse to finally stick my nose into it. Lastly, I shall be hoping to finish a young adult Chinese historical novel that I began on Wednesday and thus far, I have been adoring every single bit of it. My heart and soul belong to the main character completely and I cannot wait to see where this incredible story shall take her.

Check out all of these titles below in more detail. Respective GoodReads pages shall be linked via the titles, so if you see something interesting, please visit the page and consider adding the books to your own TBR lists. 😊

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong: This is an own-voices Chinese historical novel set in Shanghai and is a beautifully imaginative re-telling of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Some of you may recognise this from last week’s Caturday Reads, where I talked about this being my most-anticipated read for the second half of 2020 due it being inspired by one of my favourite Shakespearean titles. I’m approximately fifty or so pages into this, and I love it with my whole heart. Juliette is such a fierce and phenomenal character whom I am crushing on with every ounce of energy I have. I suppose that means that I am most-definitely a part of the Scarlet Gang (so far). I look forward to finishing it up this weekend.


Murder in Old Bombay by Nev March: An own-voices Parsee historical fiction crime novel that takes place in Bombay during the British occupation of India in 1892, it follows a man named Jim Agnihotri who has recently returned from the Afghan War. While recuperating, he reads about a terrible tragedy involving two women in the local papers, convinced that not all is as it may seem. He visits the grieving family and offers his services of helping them to uncover the truth of what happened to these ladies, spurred on by the readings of his favourite sleuth, Sherlock Holmes.

An Indian Sherlockian mystery sounded positively magnificent, so when this title finally became available on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance to request it. I am approximately fifteen percent of the way through this novel, and so far, it is excellently written. The prose style, interchanges between the characters, and the descriptions of the settings have transported me back into time, which is an element of well-done historical fiction that I love the most. The author seems to be quite a natural at writing for this genre, which is really impressive considering this is a debut novel!


Jade City by Fonda Lee: This own-voices Chinese urban fantasy book is the first in a series and involves intergenerational blood feuds, intensely savage politics, magic, and kung-fu. Beyond the basics, I have tried to avoid reading any and all synopses for the most part as I believe it shall make the experience of reading it all the more rewarding and exciting. I have heard it being described as a Chinese Godfather-esque type narrative, which just makes it sound even more enthralling.



Honourable mentions: Along with those novels, I shall be reading through a couple of manga serials. The first is Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto. This is a shōnen, martial arts, action-adventure series that is outrageously popular. Since I am watching the anime series Naruto Shippūden, I thought it would be neat to read the manga alongside watching the show. The last volume I read was Volume 40 and my goal is to read Volumes 41 and 42. The second manga series I shall be reading through is Horimiya by HERO, which is another shōnen title. It’s a slice-of-life romantic comedy series about two unlikely individuals who formulate a friendship that evolves into something more as they get to know each other better. I have read the first volume of this and it is one of the most adorable RomCom manga I have read in years. I look forward to reading the next two volumes and watching the slow-burn progression of the main characters’ rapport.

Since there shall be a lot of people out and about due to Black Friday shopping, I plan on spending all of my time safely tucked away in the coarse pages of these books as well as the fluffy, warm blankets of my bed where I shall be safe from the spread of the pandemic. The only thing that could make the weekend even better is a cup of steamy potato chowder and the cuddling company of my feline masters. Speaking of which, I shall wrap-up today’s Caturday’s Reads with a hilariously meme-tastic portrait of my old man, Azizi, yawning a hello.

When the enemies-to-lovers idiots finally kiss after fighting nonstop for the first two books.