Review: THE PERPLEXING THEFT OF THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN by Vaseem Khan

THE PERPLEXING THEFT OF THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN is a genuine treat and is particularly recommended to those looking for something other than an endless stream of death from their crime fiction. There isn’t even a murder in it. Well there’s one death that might count but I’d wager that even the most law-abiding reader would let this one through to the keeper.

Inspector Ashwin Chopra (Retd), former Mumbai policeman and current private investigator, visits a touring exhibition of the Crown Jewels (yes those ones) with his wife Poppy. Before they can do more than glance at a case or two everyone in the room falls to the floor. When they are woken the centrepiece of the exhibit, the crown in which the Koh-i-Noor diamond was set for Edward VII’s wife after being used in a bracelet and a brooch in during its relatively short time in British hands, has been stolen. Of course there is an official police investigation but it is being led by one of Mumbai’s most corrupt officers (refer to the first book in this series) and the prime suspect who has already been arrested begs Chopra to clear his name.

It’s hard to know where to start listing all the things there are to love about this book. Perhaps the wonderfully drawn characters. Chopra is a delight. Intelligent, a little old-fashioned but self aware enough to know it. And his integrity is not a remote concept but something he lives and breathes. Which can have truly disastrous consequences such as when he refuses to pay the bribe some petty bureaucrat demands in return for allowing Chopra’s elephant to remain in his restaurant’s back yard. Ganesh, the baby elephant Chopra inherited from his uncle, has become entrenched in the Chopra family’s life and plays an important role in this story. It sounds like a silly gimmick I know but Khan does a great job of making Ganesh’s various forays into the book’s events seem perfectly normal. And I want to believe so I shall. Chopra’s wife Poppy really comes into her own here as she takes on a teaching job at an exclusive boys’ school and then has to help investigate a theft there. Then there’s Rangwalla who was fired from the police force when it became clear he had helped Chopra during the events depicted in the first book of this series. Happily Chopra’s new business venture has so much work that he can employ his old friend who proves very canny. And a star of the Chopra’s unorthodox and ever-extending ‘family’ circle is  young Irfan, once a street beggar now working at the restaurant. He and his troubles will melt the hardest of hearts.

Though its characters are warm and not beset by damaging addictions (cricket doesn’t count) THE PERPLEXING THEFT OF THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN is not all sweetness and light. Even without a central murder the book’s crimes show the complexities of life in modern Mumbai with corruption being as commonplace as breathing, poverty remaining a profound problem for some despite the progress of recent years and the new, wealthy class providing a particular kind of social problem.

And I haven’t even mentioned the ripper yarn. There’s a clever locked room mystery, thefts galore, a kidnapping or two (well one is an elephant) and the infiltration of a meeting of mask-wearing rich chaps not bothered by the many crimes they are at least adjacent to if not directly involved with. A true adventure.

I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t feel at least little bit better after reading this book.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Publisher Mullholland Books, 2016
ISBN 9781473612310
Length 344 pages
Format paperback
Book Series #2 in the Baby Ganesh Agency series
Source of review copy Borrowed, library

This entry was posted in book review, India, Vaseem Khan. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Review: THE PERPLEXING THEFT OF THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN by Vaseem Khan

  1. You had me at the setting, Bernadette. And I’m glad Mumbai is presented honestly; to me, that’s a plus in a novel. I give an author credit, too, who can keep readers engaged with a good plot and interesting characters, and not rely on a high body count, etc… This one has just appeared on my radar…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kay says:

    I’ve heard about the first book and thought it sounded fun. I always liked Tarquin Hall’s series. Putting this one on my list as well, especially since there are only 2 books yet? The elephant is a plus in my book, though I don’t think I’d want one as a pet. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is a third book out now Kay…but still not too long a series to get stuck into. And I really am warming to the idea of a pet elephant, though I don’t imagine it would work here…so many rules and regulations governing us here in Australia these days

      Like

  3. Kathy D. says:

    Just think about elephants and housebreaking. One would be shoveling stuff every day. Better to get dogs or cats for pets.
    But I admit that I thought this elephant was cute in book one.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Kathy D. says:

    Do you know the joke about the two guys who work at a circus shoveling elephant poop. One says to the other, “I’m thinking about quitting the job.”
    The other replies: “What? And leave show business!”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Kathy D. says:

    FYI: A bulletin on Ruth Galloway. A fake news item said that “Dark Angel” is the last Ruth Galloway book. Not so. Elly Griffiths says on her Twitter that she is working on the next book. That makes my day.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This sounds fabulously comforting in a difficult time! I have an earlier book by the author lined up, so must read it quickly and get on to this one.

    Liked by 1 person

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