Elephants, Retired Policemen and that Ladies’ Detective Agency

book covers 1I like quick reads for entertainment (as well as slow reads for intellectual challenge) and came across ‘The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra’ by Vaseem Khan recently.

The tag lines on the cover describe the novel as ‘utterly charming’ and ‘endearing and gripping’, which wouldn’t necessarily pull me in. But what intrigued me was the premise of a retired Indian police inspector with an elephant as his sidekick. A scrupulously honest ex-policeman with the gift of a baby elephant to care for and a nasty crime to solve, no less.

This is the first in a series of tales involving former Inspector Ashwin Chopra and is heralded as a ‘Baby Ganesh Agency Investigation’.  Writer Vaseem Khan, a London-based criminologist, has them all rather cleverly mapped out, with the next one expected in May 2016.

As I read about Inspector Chopra, I had in mind the Alexander McCall Smith series ‘The No1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’ (I know, different continent) and kept thinking Precious Ramotswe of Botswana would really get on with Ashwin Chopra of Mumbai. Principled, honest, generous, steeped in convention and tradition, yet prepared to cross lines for the common good. I guess that’s not far from what the publishers wanted/expected.

But despite all that, I loved it! The writing is uncomplicated and the story fairly linear with a nice beginning, middle and an end (not always easy to find in modern novels), with well written characters to draw you into the story (although a life-long buddy unexpectedly turning out to be a serious baddie was a bit hard to swallow). I liked the character of Chopra’s spirited but childless wife, Poppy, and expect her to feature well in future stories.

I relished the taste of India (not somewhere I’ve ever been to) and was readily transported to Inspector Chopra’s Mumbai, its seedy side revealed as well as its quirky, well heeled residential areas. This is a quick, easy read with an exciting murder story at the heart of it.

Well written, I found it very enjoyable, and it comes highly recommended.

And just in case you’re wondering (because I might have unintentionally made it sound like I’m anti), I love Alexander McCall Smith, too. First published in 1998, The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency paperback I own is from 2004; it was reprinted in 2003 (13 times) and again in 2004 (11 times). The stuff writers’ dreams are made of!

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