Blog Tour: Murder at the Mela, Leela Soma

Book Review: Murder at the Mela, Leela Soma

Murder at the Mela, Leela Soma

Mystery: Murder at the Mela, Leela Soma

Blog Tour March 19, 2021

 

Alok Patel is a newly minted DI, promoted to lead investigations from Glasgow West End Station. As the first DI from Asian descent, he is very aware that he faces pressures from many directions. He is an ambassador and a role model for Glasgow’s growing Asian population and for the very few people of color serving in the police force. He is a target of resentment from older white officers who choose to believe his promotion had less to do with merit than with political correctness. He carries the potential to boost the career of his mentor and superior officer, the man who took a chance on making him the first Asian to hold the office. WIth that potential also comes the possibility of hurting that career if he fails.

 

So when a young Asian wife and mother is murdered during Scotland’s largest multiethnic festival, the Mela, all of those pressures come to bear on him at the same time. His first murder case, and it’s one that impacts his own community.

 

Leela Soma has written a tight police procedural, but it is so much more. It is a window into the character and challenges faced by immigrants to Scotland. Often lumped together as “Asians,” it is a diverse community that brings with it many of the rivalries and disputes that often motivated their emigration in the first place. To the casual observer, one without familiarity with the people, it is easy to lump people together. But the immigrant community comprises people from India and Pakistan, countries which have been at war with each other quite often. Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs have fought for position in South Asia for centuries. Those rivalries may be less overt in Glasgow, but memories are long and echoes of the past reverberate even through time and distance. There are cultural affinities between the peoples of South Asia, but there are religious affinities between Muslims from the Middle East and their fellow believers from Pakistan and Indonesia.

 

Alok is a non-practicing Hindu. His girlfriend is a non-practicing Muslim. Neither of their parents is particularly concerned about their impiety, but both families are ardently opposed to their relationship. Patel tries to work with a local Moslem leader, Ali, but occasionally Ali’s simmering anger at India over Kashmir flares up and leads to tension that hinders their relationship. White Scottish people who have fallen in love with samosas and curry are also quite willing to harass and abuse Asians as interlopers and foreigners. Having insight into these tensions, indeed knowing them personally and intimately, does help Patel in his investigations. It also makes the stakes unbelievably high.

 

Murder at the Mela takes its place in the Scottish Noir movement with fine writing, vivid characters, and a terrific plot. It also stands alone, though, as a commentary on racism and acceptance in Glasgow, both between Asians and whites and between Asians of different backgrounds. The commentary, though, is far from pedantic. Rather, it is woven into the characters, some of whom are eager to bring people together and others who have no interest in forging a new and better future. Still, Soma resists the temptation to make these characters into caricatures. Even racists have troubles at home, even fundamentalists can fall in love, and almost everyone can enjoy a good Indian takeout.

 

Murder at the Mela, Leela Soma Murder at the Mela, Leela Soma

Our thanks to Emma Welton of Damp Pebbles Blog Tours for our copy of Murder at the Mela, given solely for our participation in this blog tour. The opinions here are those of Scintilla. For other perspectives on this novel, check out the other bloggers on the tour.

 

Murder at the Mela, Leela Soma

Book Review: Murder at the Mela, Leela Soma

2 thoughts on “Blog Tour: Murder at the Mela, Leela Soma

  1. Thank you David for an excellent review of my book Murder at the Mela. I hope that your insights into the themes would attract more readers to this unique new series.

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