A Fictitious Tale from Facts
TCA Srinivasa Raghavan
THE MYSTERY OF THE PARSEE LAWYER: ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE, GEORGE EDALJI AND THE CASE OF THE FOREIGNER IN THE ENGLISH VILLAGE by Shrabani Basu Bloomsbury, 2021, 320 pp., 550
January 2022, volume 46, No 1

This book, contrary to what the title suggests, is not a crime thriller. It is, instead, a bit of obscure 19th century English social history in which an Indian, who was also a Parsi—and vicar to boot—faced what might have been deep racial discrimination. His name was George Edalji.

He was accused of mutilating a horse and threatening to kill a policeman. The natives were outraged, had him arrested, tried and convicted him. The court sentenced him to prison for a few years. The evidence against him was thin but what seems to have decided the case against him were some letters he wrote that indicated a disposition to hurt animals.

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