Masala and Murder, Patrick Lyons
The first novel in what one hopes will be a very long series, MASALA AND MURDER introduces Melbourne-based, Anglo-Indian ex-cop / private detective Samson Ryder to the world.
The author, Patrick Lyons, is Anglo-Indian himself, and his view of life obviously informs the way that Ryder engages with the world. A large part of this story is personal, as Ryder tries to learn to live with the tragic death of his sister, the circumstances of which lead to strained relationships with his parents, his girlfriend and a disconnection with the families religious faith.
When an up and coming Bollywood actress dies on Uluru during a film shoot, Ryder is hired by her wealth industrialist father to discover the truth behind a death which is initially written off as a tragic natural occurrence. In a particularly poignant way, it's this investigation that leads to some soul searching of his own life and beliefs.
Lyons takes the reader carefully and cautiously into the world of the child of immigrants trying to balance the old ways of their parents, and the society that their children are navigating. It also gives some insight into the complications of religion, mysticism and superstition, and how that plays out in Indian society and families. Along the way there is a good crime mystery in here as well, with the death of the actress slowly being revealed as a lot more complicated than initial observations would have it.
I know, from a comment made by the author, that one of the key triggers for this book's story was that idea of superstition. It is then explored in various cultures - Indian and Aboriginal - including how it intersects with religion, family tradition and beliefs, and the complications that come when you want to break away from the expectations placed upon you. It was also interesting that it's Ryder's scepticism that allows him to see behind the mystic to the truth.
The switch from Australia as the setting to Mumbai was fascinating, with Ryder very much the observer of Indian daily life, with his much loved Godmother as guide and a foot in the door of many places his investigation takes him. The interactions between these two characters were particularly well done - Mabel, Ryder's mother's elder sister, is a real force in her own right, although you could almost physically feel the culture shock that he experiences in Mumbai in particular.
The mysterious death of the young actress is eventually resolved, and the supernatural / superstition aspects of that will surprise and/or shock many readers. The chance of personal redemption for Ryder, and some settling of his feelings of guilt over the death of his own sister seem to be in sight by the end of the novel, as is a restart of his relationship with his girlfriend. With distance and some threat to Ryder himself, it also seems that his parents are closer to him than he ever realised.
A combination of personal experience, investigative technique, superstition, cultural differences, and what kind of feels like a coming of age story as well, MASALA AND MURDER was a really rewarding, slightly unusual crime fiction reading experience.
Times are tough for Samson Ryder, a Melbourne-based, Anglo-Indian private investigator who likes his facts cold and his curries hot.
A secret guilt over the death of his sister has left him guarded and closed, costing him his relationship with his girlfriend, his parents and his faith.
When a wealthy Indian industrialist engages him to investigate how his daughter, a rising Bollywood starlet, died on a location shooting in Australia, Samson treats it as easy money. After all, the police had ruled out foul play. He soon comes to realize that this is also his opportunity for redemption, to help a family find the answers to their grief, the answers he couldn’t give to his own parents.