Published by Mulholland Books
Publication date – 13 August 2015
Source – own copy
Mumbai, murder and a baby elephant combine in a charming, joyful mystery for fans of Alexander McCall Smith and Rachel Joyce.
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.
It’s Inspector Chopra’s last day as a police officer. He is reluctantly retiring due to an uncooperative heart. That same day the body of a young man is found and no one seems to be willing to investigate. To top it off, Chopra appears to have inherited a baby elephant. So Chopra decides there is only one thing to do. He will look into the murder, and soon he has an unlikely sidekick to help him in his investigation.
There is a great sense of place to this book. I could imagine myself transported to Mumbai, easily imagining the sights and sounds of the bustling city. People barely bat an eyelid at the sight of an elephant, the superindendant’s main gripe is that the apartment building where Chopra lives doesn’t allow pets!
There are a whole host of characters that populate the story. Chopra is a lovely character, kind, considerate and determined. Under pressure to retire from his with Poppy. Tolerant, barely, of his cantankerous (and rather funny to read) mother-in-law, he is driven to write the wrongs he sees during his job, to attempt to find justice in a city often too willing to turn a blind eye. Poppy is driven, excited about Chopra’s retirement but prone to wild thoughts and mad ideas. There’s Officer Rangwalla who helps Chopra even though his former boss is no longer a police officer. There are gangsters, politicians and drunk police chiefs that all add to the storyline. And then there is Ganesh, the baby elephant who helps Chopra see the world in a different light, and who helps the Inspector in more ways than one.
The mystery itself was very cleverly done, and brought a more serious edge to what is overall a fun, light hearted read. The pace of the story is just right, as the reader discovers just as Chopra does, or just before, that things aren’t perhaps as they seem. The book’s ending is really more of a beginning, as it sets the scene for the rest of the series.
This was a lovely start to what promises to be an entertaining and warm series. I look forward to reading more from Vaseem Khan in the future.
About the author
Vaseem Khan first saw an elephant lumbering down the middle of the road in 1997 when he arrived in India to work as a management consultant. It was the most unusual thing he had ever encountered and served as the inspiration behind his series of crime novels. He returned to the UK in 2006 and now works at University College London for the Department of Security and Crime Science where he is astonished on a daily basis by the way modern science is being employed to tackle crime. Elephants are third on his list of passions, first and second being great literature and cricket, not always in that order.