qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

Ganesha Ex Machina

Book Review: The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, by Vaseem Khan
I'm behind on book reviews. I saw this heavily advertised at Tube stations a few months ago, and subsequently picked up a copy in a recent work book sale.

I was curious particularly to see how this would fit in the genre - would it be an Indian imitation of Ramotswe or something different?

In fact, Khan follows somewhat the path of Christie in making Chopra, like Poirot, a retired policeman, but avoids the trap of geriatrics by giving him early retirement in his fifties due to an unpredictable heart condition. The main story is that of a dead youth from a poor neighbourhood, whose body is discovered on Chopra's last day of police service. Fearing his successors will not pursue the case, Chopra maintains an interest as he retires and of course can't let it drop. But at the same time, he receives the gift of a baby elephant from a distant relative. His unofficial investigation - hidden from his wife and mother-in-law - proceeds at a steady pace, often relying on announcing himself to people as "Inspector", even though he has retired. There are familiar tropes, among which particularly stood out the lone, honourable, investigator amidst a bunch of somewhat dishonest colleagues (though Chopra's immediate former colleagues are trustworthy and get roped in, the new brooms are not). The elephant has an uncanny habit of turning up at the right time in the right place, which does tend to give a bit of a deus ex machina effect. The characters are colourful, particularly Chopra's wife Poppy and her mother; the use of guns would stick out in an English detective novel, but is probably reasonable for Mumbai. Corrupt politicians, as we know, exist everywhere. A clever, almost tangential red-herring gives pause for thought but is resolved eventually. The story is colourful and dramatic through to the end, perhaps not always compelling, but I enjoyed this easy read.
Tags: books
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