by Sandra Murphy
This week we have a review of Peril at the Exposition by Nev March, along with an interesting interview with Nev. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book and a link to purchase it from Amazon.
Peril at the Exposition: A Captain Jim Agnihotri series By Nev March
Review by Sandra Murphy
Captain Jim Agnihotri and Diana Framji have left the strict rules of Bombay and moved to Boston. Theirs is an unusual marriage. Jim is a detective at the Dupree Agency and a fan of Sherlock Holmes. He’s teaching Diana the fine art of deduction.
Jim is called to Chicago on a case that involves the World’s Fair. A man named Thomas Grewe has been murdered. Diana expects he’ll write at least once a week to let her know he’s doing well.
When weeks go by without a word, Diana finally goes to the Dupree Agency to inquire. Both Duprees, father and son, block her attempts to find out more. It dawns on her, they don’t know where Jim is. Furious, she demands they tell her about the case. Tobias, a man of color who works for them, will accompany her, and she will be paid to find out what’s happened.
Without knowing where to look, she leaves for the city of Chicago.
Enlisting the help of a street urchin who tried, and failed, to snatch her purse, she puts out the word she’s looking for Jim and reads as much as she can find about the Fair and the proposed demonstrations of new-fangled electricity. When a murder occurs, it’s just the beginning.
This is the second book in the series. Diana is an enterprising woman, learning the ways of Americans, so different from Bombay and all its rules. She’s determined as well, willing to do whatever it takes to get what she wants, which is to get her husband back, safe and sound. They make quite a pair. With anarchists, bombs, thousands in Chicago for jobs that were filled long ago, it will take a miracle for it to end well.
I look forward to seeing what Diana and Jim are up to next. It will be hard to top this adventure.
INTERVIEW WITH NEV MARCH:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
NM: I began to write short stories at 11, novels in my 20s.
KRL: When did your first novel come out, what was it called, and would you tell us a little about it?
NM: My first novel, Murder in Old Bombay, was based on an unsolved tragedy in my community. My book offers a fictional solution based on the times. In 1892, Captain James Agnihotri, a recuperating officer in British-ruled India, read a despairing letter from a widower, Adi Framji, and was intrigued. Seeking redemption for his own missteps, he decided 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. Traveling the vistas of colonial India, Captain Jim’s investigations lead him through dangerous adventures to reach the ultimate prize: a sense of belonging.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense and if not, what else have you written?
NM: I wrote four manuscripts before MIOB, which were in the Historical Fiction/Historical Romance genre. These are still unpublished.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?
NM: My character Captain Jim first appeared as the investigator in Murder in Old Bombay. In it, he meets Diana, his client’s plucky sister. The story evolved from there! The setting for each book in this series is based on where the couple travels, but the time period (the 1890s) has been constant so far. This is because the contradictions of the gilded age and the turn of the century fascinate me.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to experience from your work?
NM: I want readers to enjoy being in a different place and time, to feel the excitement and quandaries of my characters, their sorrows and joys. So yes, I seek to entertain. However, it is also an opportunity to reflect on society, to see how our present is based on historical ways of seeing the world that may now be inappropriate or downright unfair. The books are layered so they can be enjoyed at different levels, based on the reader’s own experience and stage of life.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing, or just work whenever you can?
NM: I write daily. I set schedules and work toward them. However, I make time for family and community, the non-profits I support, and teaching, so my schedule varies.
KRL: What is your ideal time to write?
NM: I work on business commitments in the morning, and write/edit from noon to midnight, sometimes later (with breaks for meals etc.) then haul myself to yoga class at 8.30 a.m.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other way that you use to keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book while you are writing it?
NM: I outline each chapter in an Excel spreadsheet to understand what moves the story forward, where I’m placing the reveals, and deepening characters. But the outline evolves as I build the draft!
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
NM: Yes, very. After decades of squeezing in writing time, I began writing full time in 2015, and wrote Murder in Old Bombay in 2017. But it wasn’t until 2019 that MIOB was accepted for publication. I pitched 116 agents before Jill Grosjean called and offered to represent me. It was tough, in those years, to believe in my talent and writing. But I worked with my critique group, attended webinars, and studied books on craft to keep learning how to write effectively. I still do.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
NM: My debut mystery, MIOB, won the Mystery Writers of America’s award for best first crime novel in 2019! It was the first time that an Indian-born writer had won. Minotaur (an imprint of Macmillan) accepted the book for publication and is publishing the following two. And I got to attend and accept my prize at the EDGAR awards. This is like going to the Oscars as a newbie!
KRL: That’s wonderful! Most interesting book signing story, in a bookstore or other venue?
NM: I’ve only done a couple, because MIOB was published in the middle of the pandemic. Despite this, it has done far better than I expected!
KRL: What are your future writing goals?
NM: I’d like to write three more Captain Jim and Lady Diana books. I’ve got a sense of where they would be located, but not yet developed them. I’d also like to publish two of the historical novels I’d written earlier. I’m writing a story for an anthology of detective stories with South Asian protagonists or settings. Next year I plan to write a screenplay.
KRL: Who are your writing heroes?
NM: While I admire classic writers like Conan Doyle, Christie, Hammett, Chandler, and Elmore Leonard, I also enjoy and learn aspects of craft from Josephine Tey, Mary Stewart, and PD James. My writing heroes are Sujata Massey, Abir Mukherji, Isabella Maldonado, Joanna Schaffhausen, and Susan Cox!
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
NM: A lot. I start with internet pages, then read books on the topic. Sometimes I ask reference librarians for old newspaper articles. I’ll get old magazines, browse photographs, Pinterest, etc. If needed I’ll call up relevant experts, and then visit the place. The Rajabai Tower at Bombay university was the scene of the real crime I wrote about in Murder in Old Bombay. Though it was closed to the public, I persisted until I got permission (and a lady guard escort) to go up into the tower. It gave me the chills to be there!
KRL: What do you like to read?
NM: I have a diverse TBR list—mysteries of course, old classics, but also Shakespeare, historical fiction, Amy Tan, Tana French, Celeste Ng, Boman Desai’s fantastic realism, JR Bale’s political and Sci Fi books, and non-fiction on all sorts of subjects! You do not want to see my library; it’s bulging at the seams and my Kindle is overflowing.
KRL: What are your favorite TV shows or movies?
NM: I love British crime shows as well as American ones, baking shows, travel and fixer-upper shows, and investigative commentaries like those of Christina Amanpour. I do not watch reality TV. I adore historical dramas, especially detective shows like The Alienist.
KRL: Have you any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
NM: Build your craft by writing and getting critiques. Build a thick skin and learn whose critiques to trust. Build your network, because once you gain a contract you also have deadlines!
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
NM: I spoke fluent Gujarati when I was three, then my parents switched to English, and it is now my FIRST language. I also speak Hindi, Gujarati, and a little Marathi, French and Spanish. But perhaps they might be more surprised that I have four degrees in Economics and Health Policy.
KRL: Impressive! Do you have any pets?
NM: No. I grew up in a high-rise in Mumbai without space for a pet. When we had a fish tank, the occupants systematically died. I had to flush a pair of Tin-foil-bar (barians), which ate the rest. ? The Slaughter of the Guppies…alas. I dare not risk having a dog or cat!
KRL: Is there anything you would like to add?
NM: I’m thrilled when readers share how they’ve liked my books, and what resonated with them. I took some risks in the sequel (Peril at the Exposition) by changing the location to Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 and switching to dual narrators. Most romances end with the couple getting together. For me, that’s where the story starts! In each book the couple solves a mystery, while dealing with the challenges of couple-hood. That’s IRL sometimes the biggest mystery of all!
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook? Instagram?
Twitter and Instagram: @nevmarch
To enter to win a copy of Peril at the Exposition, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “peril,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 17, 2022. US only, and must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Be sure to check out our new mystery podcast too with mystery short stories, and first chapters read by local actors. A new episode goes up next week.
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Great interview! I became a big fan of the 1893 exposition during grad school and look forward to reading this book.
New author to me. Sounds like a fascinating book. Looking forward to reading.
Peril at the Exposition by Nev March sounds like a highly detailed and wonderful book.
Trouble is afoot. Would love to read this one.
Sounds like a fun adventure and I could use a little time travel right about now. Thanks for the chance to win a copy. crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com
Great interview! Cpount me in!
What a surprise that the second in the series is set in Chicago! I look forward to reading it.
Love the cover, sounds good!
This sounds intriguing! I really enjoy characters from diverse settings and India is endlessly fascinating. And then to have the characters come to the 1893 World’s Fair in the 2nd book provides a completely different setting. And congrats to the author for her persistence in writing, studying her craft, and not giving up until she found an agent.
We have a winner!