Friday, May 4, 2018

Review of The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan (2015, Mulholland Books)

After a heart attack, Inspector Ashwin Chopra is forced to retire from the Mumbai police force. On his last day at work he inherits two mysteries. The first is the seeming suicide of a young man, found drowned in a puddle. The second is the delivery of a young elephant, an inheritance from an uncle. His superiors are not interested in investigating the first, and the building manager is opposed to letting him house the second. Chopra was always an honest cop and he knows what he’s going to do with respect to the dead man – complete the investigation as a civilian. He’s less certain what to do about the elephant, though his wife Poppy is adamant the building manager is not going to get her way. Warned off by senior police officers, Chopra keeps digging, navigating the bustling city and it sharp social divisions, following the few clues that he has. It soon turns into his most dangerous case to date and to his surprise, his new elephant, Ganesha, proves to be an adept sidekick.

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra is the first book in the Baby Ganesh Agency Investigation set in Mumbai. Ganesha is a baby elephant and is Chopra’s unexpected inheritance. The book fits into the loose genre of somewhat mystical, charming cozies, such as Colin Cotterill’s Dr Siri series and Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Lady Detective Agency series. The tale follows Chopra’s attempts to solve a murder of a young man despite being officially retired from the police and to work out what to do about looking after Ganesha. It’s a light and light-hearted read, despite the corruption and violence underpinning the case under investigation. Chopra and his wife Poppy make for a charming couple, Ganesha is an interesting twist, and the story picks up on Indian themes of storytelling, with its nod to the use of mystical gods and Bollywood story structure. However, the charm and sense of place doesn’t fully compensate for a linear and straightforward plot and a tale that lacks substance and depth. Overall, an entertaining tale with a nice hook and lead character.

No comments: