Wednesday, 4 August 2021

The Dying Day by Vaseem Khan

Catriona Troth

What We Thought Of It:

As a lifetime fan of Golden Age Detective Fiction (especially the novels of Dorothy L Sayers) and a bit of a Dante obsessive, this book could have been written for me!

This is the second outing for Persis Wadia, India’s first female police inspector. This time she is summoned to the offices of the Royal Asiatic Society because one of their senior researchers has gone missing – along with a priceless manuscript of Dante’s Divine Comedy, whose loss has the power to trigger a major diplomatic incidence.

The initial assumption is that Healy, the researcher, must have stolen the manuscript. But if so, why has he left behind a series of cryptic clues? And where are they leading?

At the same time Persis is trying to wrestle with her own complicated feelings towards her rumpled forensic colleague, Archie Blackfinch, as well as the problem of the dead body of a high-class white prostitute, found dismembered by the railway line.

Persis is faced with a range of clues from riddles and cryptic crosswords to full-on book ciphers (a favourite of DL Sayers). We are led from the Divine Comedy via Alice Through the Looking Glass to the King James Bible. Khan, no doubt wisely, avoids getting bogged down in the intricate details of how to solve a book cipher, but leaves plenty to challenge the little grey cells.

Persis Wadia’s debut outing, Midnight at Malabar House, has just won the 2021 Historical Dagger Award for Crime Fiction. This, the second novel in the series, does not disappoint! It is a fascinating and nuanced portrait of a newly independent India, as well as a mystery that would delight the original members of the formidable Detection Club.

(I can highly recommend the excellent Red Hot Chilli Writers podcast, hosted by Khan and his fellow masala-noir author, Abir Mukerjee. If you listen, you might just detect an echo of the bickering of Persis’s father and his friend Dr Aziz in the banter between the two hosts.)

You’ll Enjoy This If You Loved: Midnight at Malabar House by Vaseem Khan; Have His Carcase by Dorothy L Sayers.

Avoid If You Dislike: Literary puzzles

Perfect Accompaniment: Lime and soda

Genre: Crime, Historical Fiction

Buy This Book Here


  1. I loved Midnight at Malabar House, so that will go straight on the TBR pile.

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