Thursday, 20 July 2017

The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown by Vaseem Khan

Review by Vasundra Jackison

This is the second book in a series regarding the investigations of Inspector Chopra (retired) and his assistant, the baby elephant Ganesha. People waiting for this book will not be disappointed as the story is just as delightful and entertaining as the first. It is full of charm, drama, joy, sadness and lots of comedy moments. Chopra is a force for good and Ganesha is his adorable partner.

There is something universally endearing about the elephant calf. Chopra was not by nature a sentimental man, but there was no doubt that the bond between them meant as much to him as any human relationship.

Mumbai is a teeming city of 20 million people. The author describes the sights and smells so vividly that it is easy to picture. The people, culture and chaos seem to jump out of the book. The mouth-watering food is especially well described.

The Baby Ganesh Detective Agency has many cases to solve. The most important one is the theft of Queen Elizabeth’s crown which is on display in a museum under tight security. The jewel in the crown is the Koh-i-Noor diamond, the mountain of light.

The presence of the legendary diamond on Indian soil had caused quite a stir. Many felt it had been stolen by the British one hundred and fifty years earlier…..and had now found its way home.

Chopra feels the robbery is humiliating for India and is determined to solve the crime. The corrupt police have arrested the wrong man who is being detained and mistreated in the infamous Arthur Road jail. Chopra cannot rest until he gets him out.

The prisoners had the highest rate of HIV in the country and were routinely abused both by their fellow inmates and the hardened guards. Murder was commonplace, the suicide rate off the scale.

Chopra is honest to a fault and very gentle with his wife Poppy, who has issues that tug at our hearts. Nevertheless, she demonstrates that she can be a strong and feisty woman solving a crime herself involving spoilt young boys at the St. Xavier Catholic school for boys. But it is her kindness to Ganesha and a street boy called Irfan that endears us to her the most.

Poppy dotes on Ganesha, spoiling him with treats such as the never-ending supply of bars of Cadbury Dairy Milk that he was addicted to.

Poppy has opened a restaurant where her cantankerous mother Poornima Devi has been installed as the manager. There are hilarious scenes between her and the head chef Lucknowwallah who is a highly-strung artist.

Poornima Devi had an ability to inspire terror in everyone and a grasping memory, usually employed in recalling Chopra’s numerous faults.

Ganesha adores the street boy Irfan and greets him with an exuberant bugle and a sparkle in his eyes. They are firm friends and seem to understand each other’s joy and pain. When the boy is captured and forced to return to the slums, it is Ganesha who rescues him and returns him to Chopra and Poppy.

There are risks and challenges aplenty for Chopra in recovering the Koh-i-Noor and capturing the thieves. Corruption is rife with many officials in the police force in cahoots with the criminal gangs. But the author manages to get us through the difficulties by combining the dangers with humorous situations that have us laughing out loud.

The story is written in an easy to read style with a whimsical, almost magical touch. The characters are quirky with names that sound hysterically funny. Some of the plots are quite far-fetched. But inexplicably, everything blends in very smoothly, resulting in a wonderful ride for the reader.

The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown is published by Mulholland Books – An imprint of Hodder and Stoughton

Follow Vaseem on Twitter: @VaseemKhanUK

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