The first case for a nutritionist-turned–private investigator is very personal indeed.
Maya Mallick is enjoying the company and cooking of her mother, Uma, who’s visiting Seattle from Kolkata. Maya, who may have inherited her nose for investigation from her father, who was a police detective in India, works for Detectives Unlimited of Kolkata, which is spreading to other countries. On her way to the bakery, she’s devastated to witness the self-immolation of two women, especially since one of them, the Tibetan-born scientist Sylvie, has a sister, Veen, who’s one of Maya’s closest friends. The police think the women killed themselves to make a statement about Tibet’s freedom from China, but Maya suspects more personal motives. One of the policemen on the scene is Detective Justin Stevenson, a former lover who dumped Maya just when she expected a proposal of marriage. Her attempts to speak to him about the case are rebuffed, and she’s upset to hear that he has a girlfriend and a son old enough to have been conceived while he was still dating Maya. Sylvie was working on a vaccine to prevent malaria, and the other woman who died had taken part in a clinical trial to test it. No one on the scene did anything to stop the women, but one man who was there hires Maya to look into the deaths. With the help of her assistant, she digs up more information on the drug trial and finds out from a prickly Veen that Sylvie had been dating Ivan Dunn, a Russian whose reputation, especially with women, is unsavory. Chasing down clues leads her into trouble, but she refuses to give up.
Novelist and cookbook author Kirchner (Goddess of Fire, 2016, etc.) infuses her overcomplicated debut mystery with all the flavors and scents of India.