Today I’m sharing my thoughts on The Dying Day, book two in the Persis Wadia series by Vaseem Khan. I really loved book one, Midnight At Malabar House, so have been looking forward to reading this follow up ever since I spotted it was up for preorder. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
A priceless manuscript. A missing scholar. A trail of riddles.
For over a century, one of the world’s great treasures, a six-hundred-year-old copy of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, has been safely housed at Bombay’s Asiatic Society. But when it vanishes, together with the man charged with its care, British scholar and war hero, John Healy, the case lands on Inspector Persis Wadia’s desk.
Uncovering a series of complex riddles written in verse, Persis – together with English forensic scientist Archie Blackfinch – is soon on the trail. But then they discover the first body.
As the death toll mounts it becomes evident that someone else is also pursuing this priceless artefact and will stop at nothing to possess it . . .
Harking back to an era of darkness, this second thriller in the Malabar House series pits Persis, once again, against her peers, a changing India, and an evil of limitless intent.
Gripping, immersive, and full of Vaseem Khan’s trademark wit, this is historical fiction at its finest. Book one in this series, Midnight at Malabar House, won the CWA Sapere Books Historical Dagger and is an international ebook bestseller.
Okay. Let me just put this out there – I really loved this book. Why am I saying this so plainly? Well, because I’m not really sure how to review the book and do it justice without risking some spoilers. This is a very clever, puzzling, historical mystery, with brilliant characters, a lot of suspense and a lot of tragedy, wrapped up in a story that touches upon a part of history that will remain memorable for all of the wrong reasons.
At the heart of the story we have the mystery of the missing manuscript – an ancient and priceless copy of Dante’s The Divine Comedy. Not only has the book disappeared, but so has the reputed scholar who was working on it. The simple answer is the most obvious – the scholar, one John Healy, took the book. If that is the case then why would he be leaving a series of clues that appear to be leading police directly back to the missing tome? That is exactly what Inspector Persis Wadia needs to work out in a hunt for a book that turns more dangerous with every new clue.
I loved the blend of mystery and police investigation in this book. Not only do we have Persis and the team trying desperately to find the book to stave off some kind of diplomatic incident between India and the Italian Government, but we also have the increasingly cryptic clues left by Healy. A mystery within a mystery. Add to this a separate murder investigation and the pressure is certainly on the team. It’s not helped by the fact that as India’s first female Inspector, Persis faces an uphill battle in gaining the respect and support of her team. It’s a very believable dynamic, one which helps to shape Persis’s character as every interaction seems like a very personal battle, another moment where she needs to prove her worth.
I do love Persis Wadia as a character. She is someone I can actually identify with. Not the same circumstances at all, and I faced far less resistance, but I had the dubious honour of being the first woman appointed to a Managerial operational role in a previous company. It’s that need to be taken seriously, to prove yourself every bit as worthy as the male counterparts, whilst not wanting to accept concessions or seen as a role model just because of being female that certainly rings true. It makes for a real point of conflict with her colleague Archie Blackfinch too. That, and his simply being British, makes the clear chemistry between the two fun to watch but difficult for them to navigate. They are such opposites – Persis so serious whilst Archie is far more laid back, almost clumsy in his manner, but they make a perfect pair and I love reading about them.
There is a really serious side to this book, taking us back into Healy’s past and a dark part of history. I really enjoy the way the author brings history to life within the books without overloading the reader with detail. The darkness, the atrocities are clear, the detail enough to give the story context but leaving scope for readers to go and do their own further reading should they desire. Not that this particular part of history is ever far from our minds. The narrative is pitched perfectly, the description of the history and of the setting, putting readers front and centre in the story, even when it is not necessarily comfortable to be there. Through the depiction of the surroundings and the characters, the author really brings India, and beyond, to life.
With so many people determined to get their hands on The Divine Comedies, there are no end of suspects, and Vaseem Khan skilfully lays out all the motivations whilst leaving the real danger hidden in plain sight. There is a sense of jeopardy, especially for Persis, and as the full truth is unveiled, you realise just how deadly it could all get. The suspense is maintained until the last and I was completely engaged in the story to the very last, defiant page.
Loved it. Please tell me we are getting a book three?
About the Author
Vaseem Khan is the author of two crime series set in India, the Baby Ganesh Agency series set in modern Mumbai, and the Malabar House historical crime novels set in 1950s Bombay. His first book, The UNEXPECTED INHERITANCE OF INSPECTOR CHOPRA, was a Times bestseller and an Amazon Best Debut, now translated into 15 languages. The second in the series THE PERPLEXING THEFT OF THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN won the 2017 Shamus Award for Best Original Private Investigator Paperback. The first novel in his new historical crime series, MIDNIGHT AT MALABAR HOUSE, features India’s first female police detective, and is currently longlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Historical Dagger. The second, THE DYING DAY, is out in July 2021 and follows the theft of a 600-year-old copy of Dante’s The Divine Comedy from Bombay’s Asiatic Society.
Vaseem’s aim with his books is to take readers on a journey to the heart of India, showcasing both the colour and darker aspects of this incredible country. Vaseem was born in England, but spent a decade working in India as a management consultant. When he’s not writing, he works at the Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science at University College London. In 2018, he was awarded the Eastern Eye Arts, Culture and Theatre Award for Literature.
For more information about the world of his books please visit vaseemkhan.com where you can also keep abreast of Vaseem’s latest goings-on, competitions, events, and extracts from upcoming books via his newsletter.