Wednesday, 1 November 2017

The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel In the Crown - Vaseem Khan

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A crime story set in Mumbai 's bustling street - with an elephant.

I came across this book after attending the Asian Writer Event which celebrated the its 10th anniversary. The event was a day filled with interaction and workshops - a truly inspirational event that brought published and established writers together. Vaseem Khan, the author was on one of the panels talking about his crime series involving a detective solving crime with his pet elephant.

What a hook! I love crime thrillers not only for their stories but also for the detective's persona and the other small bits and bobs that accompany though not necessarily part of the core crime story.

The first story introduces a retired inspector Chopra, who is bequeathed a baby elephant Ganesha .  Together he and the animal together solve a mystery. The series continues with the second story, where Ganesha, while settling into the family, helps Chopra once again to another mystery concerning the theft of a remarkable jewel belonging to the British Queen.


Inspector Chopra is at an exhibition of the crown jewels that are being displayed at the Prince of Wales Museum in Mumbai. However, the jewels are stolen, literally in his presence and Chopra finds himself in the middle of it trying to find out who could have stolen it.

What works:
  • The setting is great, the background information with which Khan constructs the persona of Chopra is good. He builds the background well with attention to detail.
  • The narrative is fluid. To me this seemed like Death in Paradise - a british crime series set in the Caribbean, -  in a Mumbai setting. 
  • There are so many peripheral characters, Poppy the wife, Poornima the painful -mother-in-law, Irfan the orphan and also Chopra's nemesis, Rao. Loved the way the characters are fitted around the story, with different strands continuing at the same time. 
  • Khan shows a good understanding of the city he sets the story in. Reading about the Prince of Wales Museum and Madh island - places close to my "Bombaywalla" heart felt good and it was great to see him have such a good control of the place he writes about.
    What doesn't:
    • The setting clearly works and while Khan seems to have got the series firmly on hand on track, there is a nagging doubt of what will happen once the elephant goes older. There are mentions that the maturing of an elephant takes a long time....but then at some point that police truck is going to be a bit tight for an elephant....
    • Also Inspector Chopra in Brihanmumbai police seems a bit improbable when compared to a Inspector Shinde. Khan justifies the name though to a certain extent by giving a plausible background although one cannot help wondering if market forces are at play...
    Overall an enjoyable murder mystery. But in addition it is also an emotional story, with moments of philosophical introspection and they are so well layered that it makes for a wholesome reading experience.

    A lighthearted, well plotted murder mystery by an author who writes from heart.

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