Peril at the Exposition by Nev March: Book Review


November 17, 2022

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Captain Jim Agnihotri and his new bride, Diana Framji, return in Nev March’s Peril at the Exposition, the follow up to March’s award-winning, Edgar finalist debut, Murder in Old Bombay.

Peril-at-the-Exposition1893: Newlyweds Captain Jim Agnihotri and Diana Framji are settling into their new home in Boston, Massachusetts, having fled the strict social rules of British Bombay. It’s a different life than what they left behind, but theirs is no ordinary marriage: Jim, now a detective at the Dupree Agency, is teaching Diana the art of deduction he’s learned from his idol, Sherlock Holmes.

Everyone is talking about the preparations for the World’s Fair in Chicago: the grandeur, the speculation, the trickery. Captain Jim will experience it first-hand: he’s being sent to Chicago to investigate the murder of a man named Thomas Grewe. As Jim probes the underbelly of Chicago’s docks, warehouses, and taverns, he discovers deep social unrest and some deadly ambitions.

When Jim goes missing, young Diana must venture to Chicago’s treacherous streets to learn what happened. But who can she trust, when a single misstep could mean disaster?

Award-winning author Nev March mesmerized readers with her Edgar finalist debut, Murder in Old Bombay. Now, in Peril at the Exposition, she wields her craft against the glittering landscape of the Gilded Age with spectacular results.

Sophia Rose’s Review

While I picked up the first book for the setting and circumstances, I continued with the series for the author’s writing, attention to historical backdrop, and the well-developed, diverse cast of characters led by the complex bi-racial, Jim Agnihotri, and his Parsi wife, Diana.

Perils at the Exposition is book two in the Captain Jim Agnihotri series.  The book works best in order, but could be read without much difficulty, standalone.

Perils at the Exposition begins when, honeymooners, Jim and Diana are settled in Boston.  Diana is adjusting to living in a tiny apartment without the comforts and social status she once had in a wealthy Zoroastrian Persian family in Bombay.  She and Jim are starting over and for all her struggles to figure out American ways, her new place and household, and being a wife, she is excited to be with Jim.  Jim has been teaching her the art of detection he learned first from his beloved Sherlock Holmes books and now his own experience studying and applying detecting skills while working for the Dupree Agency.

This is good because Diana must put her newfound knowledge to the test finding her own husband in Chicago where he was last known to be investigating a murder down on the docks.

Diana learns that behind the exciting and pretty façade of the fair, there is a dark side to wealth and progress.  Rough unions, ruthless bosses, and anarchists who want to make their mark at the fair.  Diana and Jim must follow a shadowy, path to not just a killer, but a tangled web of nefarious people to not just save other lives, but their own.

The author painted a full, rich and colorful picture of life in 1893 Chicago and America.  After the Civil War, the peace came at painful cost and still smolders in some hearts. Then there are the relatively unregulated big businessmen driving the industrial era with little notice or care for the workers who live on pittance and are put in dangerous situations that they have to accept if they want to provide any form of food and shelter to their families.  Unions are rising to counter this and the clash with the bosses is another brutal war.  Add to this, the influx of immigrants from all over the world looking for new opportunities and sometimes only finding more of what they left behind.

Diana was reared in a relatively sheltered environment, but she charges into the lower levels of Chicago to find Jim.  She meets many colorful characters in the process. For those wondering, yes, the pair do eventually join up and work the case, sharing the narration. Captain Jim appreciates his wife and respects her intelligence and abilities, but Diana’s fearless decision to involve herself had Jim struggling to not put her on the first train east and out of danger. I didn’t expect Diana to have such a strong role in the book, but welcomed getting to know her as an equal narrator with Jim.

The mystery was complicated by many characters and many motives. Learning what was going on and who was involved was as big a mystery as the murders, which only got solved when Jim and Diana worked out what was happening in the bigger picture. There was wonderful heart-stopping action at times for both of them.

All in all, it was a solid follow up entry in the series and I sincerely hope there are more mysteries for Jim and Diana to tackle. Historical mystery lovers sit up and take notice.

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About Nev March

Nev-March-120x120Nev 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 Nev 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 sons. Murder in Old Bombay is her debut novel. Her books deal with issues of identity, race and moral boundaries. Her sequel, Peril at the Exposition launched by Macmillan Publishers in July 2022.