The #Bookvent Calendar 2021 – Day Fifteen

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#Bookvent – Celebrating my top reads of 2021

My day fifteen #bookvent choice is the second book in a series from an author whose work I love. Historical crime fiction is something I’d usually associate more with Mandie than me, but I love the author’s work, and the setting of post colonial India is absolutely brilliant, as is the very atypical (for the time and place) central protagonist. I love the mystery, the traditional and yet very fresh feel of the series, and was drawn in by the way in which the author wove into the story one of the darkest moments in twentieth century history. My fifteenth pick is …

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The Dying Day By Vaseem Khan

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.

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The Dying Day 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. But nothing is ever that simple, is it? 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. This is definitely a moment where gender, and the associated prejudices very much work against her.

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. Everything in the book is written to perfection, the tone, the humour, the setting – all really drew me into the narrative and the heart of the investigation, as well as giving me a true sense of time and place. 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. Cannot wait for more – and it’s already on order (even if the author hasn’t finished his edits yet … no pressure Mr K 😉).

You can read my full review right here.

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Happy #bookvent reading all

Jen

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