For the Joy of Reading: The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown

How can you not love a book about a detective agency where one of the main characters is a baby elephant?   Such is the genius of Vaseem Khan that he can construct a story around such an improbable premise.   This is the second book in the Baby Ganesha Detective Agency series, and some of you will already have had the delight of meeting Inspector Chopra and his elephant, Ganesha.   So you can sit back and enjoy the ride.   For the rest of you, it is time to make friends with Inspector Chopra now.

There is a spectacular start to this crime novel.   The Koh-i-noor diamond which is on loan to a Museum in Mumbai is stolen from under the noses of the police and the security guards.   Unfortunately for the robbers, Inspector Ashwin Chopra (retd) is one of the people viewing the diamond when the theft takes place.   He is to be their nemesis and their downfall.   In this he is assisted by his associates in the Baby Ganesha Detective Agency, not the least of whom is Ganesha himself, an extraordinarily intelligent baby elephant.   Chopra inherited the elephant from his Uncle Bansi in the previous book in the series.

The theft of one of the Crown Jewels is a major cause of embarrassment, and the intervention of Inspector Chopra is not particularly welcomed.   He is persuaded to intervene by one of his ex-colleagues who has been arrested and is the major suspects.   This is the motor for the plot, but it is not the only plot.   The Baby Ganesha Detective Agency has a number of cases to deal with.   There is the theft of the statue of the founder from a prestigious Catholic school, run by the terrifying Father Lobo.   There is the disappearance of Irfan, a street urchin who tends Ganesha, and who is loved by the elephant, Inspector Chopra and his wife Poppy, and who has to be found and kept safe.

There are other characters who grab the imagination – Poorneem Devi, Chopra’s irascible mother-in-law and Chef Lucknowwallah, who produces the wonderful food at Chopra’s restaurant, are two of them, locked as they are in mortal combat over the running of the same restaurant.   Vaseem Khan uses vignettes to guide us through the life of the great city of Mumbai, home to 20,000,000 people.   There is Rangwalla, Chopra’s associate in the agency, who he rescues from poverty after Rangwalla is sacked from the police.

All of these people are deftly characterised.   Nor does Vaseem Khan forget the need to keep the story rolling on towards its conclusion.   The pace does not slacken, and the sub-plots are woven into the overall mystery of how the Koh-i-noor came to be stolen, who stole it and why it was stolen.   This is the heart of the book, and you will be kept guessing until the denouement.   Which is just what you would expect of a mystery.

I do not see how anyone will not be able to enjoy this book.


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