Another day, another book and another intriguing case for Inspector Chopra and his most unusual of partners in crime-fighting – Baby Ganesha, the elephant. Part two in my series of reviews for First Monday Crime sees me review The Perplexing Theft Of The Jewel In The Crown. Again, I listened to the audio book version and once more I wasn’t disappointed. I’ll tell you my thoughts on the book in a moment, as soon as we’ve seen what this book is all about.
The Official Book Blurb
The second book in the heartwarming and charming Baby Ganesh series.
For centuries the Koh-i-Noor diamond has set man against man and king against king.
Now part of the British Crown Jewels, the priceless gem is a prize that many have killed to possess.
So when the Crown Jewels go on display in Mumbai, security is everyone’s principal concern. And yet, on the very day Inspector Chopra visits the exhibition, the diamond is stolen from under his nose.
The heist was daring and seemingly impossible. The hunt is on for the culprits. But it soon becomes clear that only one man – and his elephant – can possibly crack this case…
Well. What can I say other than this is another cracking story from a series I have very quickly grown to love.
In a bid to please his wife Poppy, Chopra books tickets for them to visit an exhibition of The Crown Jewels, on loan from Her Majesty, The Queen and on display in Mumbai. The exhibit is not without its controversy, the true ownership of the Koh-i-Noor diamond still very much a topic of debate between the Indian and British people. Security is tight, excitement levels building. So when Chopra and Poppy get caught up in a very daring and unbelievably successful attempt to steal the crown, Chopra knows that he cannot simply stand by and watch his former colleagues in the Mumbai police botch the job of finding the people responsible. When he gets a plea from a former friend, currently accused of orchestrating the theft, he is resolute in his decision to conduct his own investigation, despite the fact that he risks making some very powerful influential enemies.
What I love about these books is Chopra’s absolute determination and his complete honesty in all that he does. There is a culture of corruption rife in Mumbai, and yet he refuses to be a part of it, and despite an occasionally gruff demeanour, within Chopra lies a heart of gold and really natural investigative skill. A nose for when something is not quite right as it were. Vaseem Khan has really created a wonderful character here, one who blends an unshakeable sense of right and wrong with a dogged determination, but also an overwhelming love for his family. Even his mother-in-law although I doubt Chopra would ever admit it.
His love and care for family in friends is shown beautifully in this book through two very different threads. Firstly, overwhelmed by the number of cases coming his way since his success in outing the corruption within the police force and nailing a murderer, Chopra is on the lookout for an associate investigator. Someone that can help him balance the workload. This gives him the chance to offer a lifeline to former colleague and friend, Rangwalla, something he does without hesitation. It is not a done with a sense of charity, it is done in the spirit of friendship and is a true measure of Chopra’s generosity and trust.
Then we have Irfan. Irfan is a street-urchin, a young boy who has been sleeping rough and approaches Chopra about getting a job at the new restaurant. Chopra takes the boy under his wing and provides him a home, a sense of belonging, that the child has never experienced. He does not try to crowd or change him, but you can really feel the love that Chopra has for Irfan and it is really wonderful to experience. When Irfan’s life is put at risk, Chopra knows he must find the boy again and keep him safe, not just because his wife has grown to love Irfan, but because he has too. The new family unit you can feel forming provides some of the books most touching moments, as well as some of the most tense when Irfan is placed in jeopardy. I don’t think it was just Poppy and Chopra who felt a protective urge towards the cheeky young urchin. I certainly did too.
Speaking of cheek young urchins… Well perhaps not quite an urchin, but definitely cheeky and every bit as addicted to Dairy Milk as he had ever been, we have Ganesha, Chopra’s elephant and detecting partner. I really do love that elephant. He is so funny and so in tune with what is going around him, you’d be forgiven for forgetting he was an elephant at all. His friendship with Irfan is lovely to watch, the two really bonding and the sense of loss Ganesha feels when Irfan leaves is palpable. But where Irfan and Ganesha have a kind of brotherly bond, Ganesha and Chopra is all work. And oh so funny. So so funny. I’m not going to spoil the book, but there is one sequence in the book, where Chopra is trying to get to the bottom of a known criminal’s involvement in the theft, that sees Ganesha quite literally playing to the crowd in some of the books funniest moments. But he is also at the centre of some of the books most heart stopping too, with someone set to try to hurt Chopra for his integrity and refusal to be corrupted, something which could see the baby elephant pay the ultimate price.
Although the pace of these books is very different, perhaps more relaxed if only owing to the setting of Mumbai itself, it is no less tense than your fast action novel. In fact there are quite a few moments in this book especially where the stakes are raised and people’s lives put in jeopardy, so much so that I could feel my hands tightening around the steering wheel as I drove and I will admit to being perhaps a little more focused on the book than I was on my driving… (Oops). As we entered the final few chapters of the book, the story raced along to a tense and most satisfying conclusion, but you could tell that in spite of the investigation being complete, things were not going to end there for Chopra. In uncovering the truth, he makes some powerful enemies, least of which is his old nemesis, Rao.
I really enjoy the characterisations in this book. playing to stereotype just a little, but so effective in establishing the story. The oh-so Britishness of DCI Bomberton is so funny that each time he was mentioned I felt a little smile cross my face. And the use of setting, the way in which Vaseem Khan describes the landscape and the oppression of places like the Arthur Road Jail, made the story feel all the more real. Loved it.
The Perplexing Theft Of The Jewel In The Crown is book two in the Baby Ganesha Detective Agency series and is available now from the following retailers:
Vaseem Khan will be appearing at First Monday Crime in November You can book tickets to hear him and three other fabulous authors in conversation with Barry Forshaw, and learn more about First Monday Crime, at their website here.
About the Author
Vaseem Khan is the bestselling author of the Baby Ganesh Detective Agency novels, a cosy crime series based in Mumbai, India and featuring a baby elephant. The first book in the series, The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, was a Times bestseller, a Waterstones’ paperback of the year, and an Amazon Best Debut. His latest book in the series is The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star.