Sunday 15 November 2015

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan

This is the first of what would seem to be a new series of mysteries featuring recently retired Mumbai policeman, Ashwin Chopra and, quite possibly, his pet elephant. The book begins on Inspector Chopra's last day in the force - he has had to retire early for health reasons - and he is daunted by the fact. He will have his policeman's pension, and his wife, Poppy, is looking forward to having him at home to make a fuss over. But he is not ready to retire.
    A final case - the drowning of a young man from a poor part of town - looks to Chopra to be more than meets the eye and in spite of orders to sign it off as a drunken accident, Chopra resists. He can hear the words of the boy's distraught mother ringing in his ears, that there is no justice for a poor woman and her poor son. Surely he can ask a friend to perform a post mortem and visit the family to see what he can find out.
    At the end of the day he arrives home to find there is a baby elephant outside his home. It has been left to him by a favourite uncle and an argument is in full flow between Poppy and Mrs Subramanium, the self-appointed arbiter of what is permitted in their apartment block. No pets is one of the rules, while Poppy exclaims that the elephant isn't a pet, but one of the family. The elephant is tethered in the compound and left with the caretaker, while Chopra figures out what to do with it.
    The elephant is so tiny and, separated from its herd, utterly miserable, neither eating or drinking. You can't help but fear for its survival while curiosity about its role in the plot draws you into the story. Chopra, now with time on his hands, begins his investigation into the drowning. He finds the victim's diary which sends him on a trail into the slums of Mumbai. What can be the connection between a leather shop, an orphanage and an abandoned warehouse?
    While Chopra is involved in his secret undercover work, Poppy suspects he has another woman and hatches a scheme of her own to save her marriage. There are plenty more mad cap scenes involving the elephant at the apartment, also home of Chopra's difficult mother-in-law, while Chopra closes in on a network of criminals, leading up to a showdown with an old enemy.
    The plot just bubbles along and the colourful sights of Mumbai in its infinite variety adds a ton of interest while the monsoon brings new challenges. Chopra is a big-hearted investigator and his elephant surprisingly helpful - is is just as well they are not ready to settle into retirement together. I for one will be looking out for the next Baby Ganesh Agency investigation.

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