Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Nev March's "Murder in Old Bombay"

Nev March is the recent winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America Award for Best First Crime Fiction.

After a long career in business analysis, in 2015 she returned to her passion, writing fiction and now teaches creative writing at Rutgers-Osher Institute. A Parsee Zoroastrian herself, she lives in New Jersey with her husband and two sons. Murder in Old Bombay is her debut novel.

Here March dreamcasts an adaptation of Murder in Old Bombay:
With five nominations for national book awards, Murder in Old Bombay has attracted interest for its screen rights.

Murder in Old Bombay is a cinematographer’s delight, because it’s set amid the vast vistas of Colonial India, from posh Bombay mansions and royal durbar halls to old fortresses and mountain villages on Himalayan slopes by way of army cantonments, boxing gymkhanas and seedy dockyards. In the vein of a Merchant-Ivory production, I’d love to see it produced by Deepa Mehta (Bride and Prejudice) or Gurinder Chadha (Beecham House) or Michael Engler (Downton Abbey)!

In 1892, Captain James Agnihotri, a recuperating officer in British ruled India reads a despairing letter from a widower, Adi Framji and is intrigued. Seeking redemption for his own missteps, he decides to help Adi solve the mystery behind the puzzling deaths of his wife and sister, who plunged to their deaths from a university clocktower in broad daylight. Captain Jim’s investigations lead him through dangerous adventures to reach the ultimate prize—a sense of belonging.

Captain Jim is of mixed race. While this poses a significant social impediment in his personal life, it allows him to investigate both upper class society folk as well as the dark underbelly of Indian society. Through his investigation, he will encounter young Diana Framji’s “diamond sparkle,” a team of lost urchins, as well as the man accused of the crime, who’d “stood trial, suffered censure and public vitriol, all to protect the memory of two friends.” And he will fall in love with his client’s family, including Mrs. Framji who feeds him sumptuous meals at every opportunity and Burjor, the broad-chested open-hearted patriarch. Diana is his client’s sister, educated in England, polished at a finishing school, dynamic and assertive, she chafes against her Victorian limitations and restricted lifestyle. And she has secrets.

Among his allies he will find Editor Tom Byram:
Smooth. The man was so composed I disliked and admired him at the same time,
Police Superintendent McIntyre:
“Evening,” he said Abruptly. Not disposed to think well of me, then.
And unexpected, heroic aid from one fragile, sweet child.
Chutki had the sort of pluck no one expects, the courage to endure the unspeakable in Jalandhar, to walk on bloodied feet, to protect a babe and save little scraps to feed it when she had nothing for herself…
Above all he will encounter India.
“When I rose, dusk was creeping up the mountain. Birds trilled and crickets called to each other, friendly sounds, yet they reminded me of my solitary state.”
The male lead, Captain Jim, could be played well by British actor Blake Ritson, or Indian actor Hrithik Roshan because they both have a certain angularity to their features, good physique and are great character actors. The actor would need to don a number of disguises and completely disappear into them, the way Captain Jim does in imitating Sherlock Holmes!

The female lead could be Bangladeshi actress Bidya Sinha or Annet Mahendru, born in Afghanistan to a Russian mother and an Indian father, from the FX show The Americans.

With a panoply of memorable characters and Bombay, queen of imperial cities as backdrop, I can just see this emotional story filling the big screen and the hearts of movie-goers. See more locations, characters, and casting choices.
Visit Nev March's website.

Q&A with Nev March.

The Page 69 Test: Murder in Old Bombay.

--Marshal Zeringue