I spent a few weeks catching up with the first three books in the Inspector Chopra series late last year and enjoyed every minute of it. They make great audio books and I must admit that as soon as I saw this book was available for preorder I was all over it, buying the audio book as an accompaniment (and to complete my set) as soon as I could. A recent trip for work gave me the perfect opportunity to catch up with Chopra and co. but before I share my thoughts on the book, here is what this instalment is all about.
About the Book
In the enchanting new Baby Ganesh Agency novel, Inspector Chopra and his elephant sidekick investigate a murder at Mumbai’s grandest hotel.
For a century the iconic Grand Raj Palace Hotel has welcomed the world’s elite. From film stars to foreign dignitaries, anyone who is anyone stays at the Grand Raj.
The last thing the venerable old hotel needs is a murder…
When American billionaire Hollis Burbank is found dead – the day after buying India’s most expensive painting – the authorities are keen to label it a suicide. But the man in charge of the investigation is not so sure. Chopra is called in – and discovers a hotel full of people with a reason to want Burbank dead.
Accompanied by his sidekick, baby elephant Ganesha, Chopra navigates his way through the palatial building, a journey that leads him steadily to a killer, and into the heart of darkness . . .
Murder at the Grand Raj Palace is the fourth book in the Inspector Chopra series and. in spite of being used to the whole concept of the private investigator and his elephant sidekick, I have to say this set up never gets old. This book sees Chopra embroiled in the investigation into the death of a prominent American businessman, in Mumbai with a view to buying a very important piece of artwork. The police and authorities wish to close it off as self inflicted, the company engaged to conduct the auction of the art disagree. Chopra? Well he simply wants to find the truth. Alongside this his wife, Poppy, seems to be caught in the middle of the hunt for a missing and very reluctant bride to be, proving her husband is not the only detective in the family.
What I love most about this series is the way in which author Vaseem Kahn paints such a clear picture of the setting. His knowledge of Mumbai, the way in which he captures the sights and sounds of the city and portrays the characters who make it what it is, really bring the stories to life. There is a slightly political stance on occasion as Chopra shares his views on culture, politics, history – what ever takes his mood – but it only adds to the story itself and makes you more aware of the characters who inhabit this world.
Chopra is a brilliant character. Highly principled, very intelligent and a very diligent investigator, he is also intrinsically human. This is very clear in this story with his head often turned by the very attractive auction director, Lisa Taylor, much to Poppy’s dismay. There is also the fact that he seems to put work ahead of his family, almost forgetting to arrange something special for his anniversary – at least until Poppy takes charge. I love the way in which Chopra’s character has developed over the series and his relationship with his young charge, Ganesha. Charge in a figurative and literal sense …
Ganesha, is the baby elephant he inherited from a long lost uncle. Ganesha often steals the show in the scenes he is in, and although few they are effective, especially the ones with Chopra’s ward, Irfan. They manage to get into mischief of the boldest, and funniest, nature and yet it is always with the best of intentions. I love the pair of them. Brilliant characters.
Poppy was the real highlight of this book though. Not content to sit back and wait for Chopra, she pushes her way into his investigation, bagging them a suite at the eponymous Gran Raj Palace hotel while Chopra investigates , her way of ensuring he does not miss their anniversary. One well intended comment leads to a whole world of upset and puts Poppy in the driving seat of her own investigation. She is another superb character, loyal, wise, determined and a true matriarch, even if she meets her match in Big Mother, a very wise woman who is determined to find her missing granddaughter. Poppy finally gets the chance to shine and show that Chopra isn’t the only one who can solve a puzzzle, although she too has a helping hand from the wonderful Ganesha.
There is plenty of mystery, misdirection and intrigue in this book, set against a very opulent backdrop, in stark contrast to much of the city, including the parts of it typically inhabited by Chopra and his family. Vaseem Khan has such skill in creating his world that you really feel a part of it, becoming completely absorbed while reading. These are not the fastest paced novels – life in Mumbai simply does not pass that quickly – and yet you do get the sense of urgency which underlines both mysteries. One a deadline for a wedding the other a deadline set for the sale of the painting. The pages, or in my case chapters as I listened to the book, simply fly by and before you know it you are happening upon the end, richer for the journey you have been on and thoroughly entertained too. And a big shout out to narrator Madhav Sharma who really brought the story to life. Brilliant stuff.
If you would like to pick up a copy of the book for yourself it is available at the following links: