Love and Loss in Colonial Bombay
Nabanipa Bhattacharjee
MURDER IN OLD BOMBAY: A MYSTERY by Nev March Minotaur Books, New York, 2020, 400 pp., 698.790
December 2021, volume 45, No 12

Nev March’s debut fiction opens in late nineteenth century Bombay, one of the most important and unforgettable cities dotting the British empire. With the Sepoy Mutiny a thing of the past and the law-and-order situation at its efficient best, thanks to India being directly governed by the Crown now, Bombay seems to be in a state of quiet and calm. However, that is not quite the case as March’s 400 pages long crime novel tells us. Bombay, as we shall see, continues (as was the case during the time of the East India Company) to be home to (unsolved) crimes and violence, undetected conspiracies, mistaken and unsound prosecutions, wrongful confinements, faulty justice, erroneous (media) and damaging reportage, and many more of such typical urban maladies. The failings of the colonial police force, for example, compel one of the main characters of the book, the young lawyer Adi Framji, to consider hiring a (private) detective to look into the deaths of two family members. Through the eyes of the alive (and dead) Framjis’, an old Bombay Parsee family, and Captain James Agnihotri, an Anglo-Indian, battle-wounded, ex-military (14th Light Dragoons) officer turned (crime) journalist, March not only offers us the glimpse of an imperfect imperial Bombay but also, very pertinently, an equally flawed account of (Indian) history.

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