Book two of the ‘Jemmer wants to read something other than YA Fantasy’ saga!
The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan.
“On the day he retires, Inspector Ashwin Chopra discovers that he has inherited an elephant: an unlikely gift that could not be more inconvenient. For Chopra has one last case to solve… But as his murder investigation leads him across Mumbai – from its richest mansions to its murky underworld – he quickly discovers that a baby elephant may be exactly what an honest man needs. So begins the start of a quite unexpected partnership, and an utterly delightful new series.”
I found this book while browsing in a bookstore and I’ll admit to being taken in by the
cover and the promise of elephantine adventures. I love this cover, it’s brilliant. I mean look at that mustache. That is a majestic mustache. That is the mustache of a book that means business.
I don’t usually pick up crime/murder mystery novels, not because that’s not my ‘thing’, just because it’s rare that I find one that looks interesting. So a murder mystery set in Mumbai with the added bonus of an elephant sidekick sounded perfect. And it was.
This book is a slow burner, it starts with murder, a retiring policeman and the gift of an elephant, (yay excitement!) then takes about 100 or so pages to pick up the pace again, at this point I was thinking ‘I was promised elephants and I’ve got Midsomer Murders‘. This is my only criticism because when it does pick up again, it was worth waiting for. The main plot is resolved with suitable skill and a certain amount of panache and without giving too much away, there are soap-opera worthy subplots, involving faked pregnancies, irate neighbours and an elephant in the most ridiculous situations (being coaxed up an escalator while trying to remain incognito and trailing the bad guy, stands out in my mind). One does have to wonder if the man employed as a guard to the complex which Chopra lives on, has a home though; he seems to be available at all hours and I worry for his family.
The prose is beautifully written, a setting that is completely new to me, the city of Mumbai is described in amazing detail, filled with striking imagery and poetic rhythm. One particular paragraph on page 125, in which Khan describes the slums of Dharavi stands out above the rest:
“In the twilight zone of Dharavi, where even the auto-rickshaws could not enter; where houses were constructed with anything available to hand – corrugated tin, plywood, pukkah bricks, asbestos and cardboard sheets – where a billion cockroaches played tag with a billion rats; where black smoke from the potters’ kiln created an artificial cloudbank overhead; where hundreds of thousands of shopkeepers, street vendors, ragpickers, tinkers, tailors, black marketeers and miniature moguls operated beyond the reach of the muncipal authorities; where the sound of hammering from the metalworkers’ smithies was a constant background noise… the human spirit still flourished.”
I just love that so much. The single, never ending sentence that summons so many images and paints a perfect picture of the place. I could almost be there, I could almost smell it.
Overall this was a lovely glimpse into a different culture and a different perspective on the world. Filled with twists and turns, brilliant subplots and comedic timing that only an elephant can provide, as well as at least one horrendously grim (seriously gross) death, this book is an enthralling who-dun-it and I heartily recommend it to anyone seeking something different.