The body of a young man turns up in the police station on the day that Inspector Ashwin Chopra retires from his lengthy career in the police service in Mumbai. The new station commander insists that the death was a simple drowning, but Inspector Chopra senses that it's a murder that should be investigated. On the same day, a truck with a baby elephant arrives with a letter from Chopra's uncle that informs him that “this is no ordinary elephant!” Inspector Chopra and his wife Poppy inhabit a high-rise apartment building that doesn't allow pets, let alone have a place for a baby elephant.
Inspector Chopra now has two mysteries to pursue: a murder, and how to care for a despondent baby elephant that won't eat.
The newly retired Chopra decides to investigate the murder case on his own recognizance. Descriptions of the colorful, noisy, smelly neighborhoods of exotic boom-town Mumbai, India provide a fascinating setting. Along the way, Inspector Chopra (Retd) develops a unique relationship with the baby elephant who is named Ganesha by default. There's lots of lore about real and mythical elephants in the book. As the clues in the murder case coalesce and reach a climax, Ganesha's unusual qualities rise to the surface in surprising ways.
In the aftermath of solving the murder mystery, Inspector Chopra forms the Baby Ganesh Agency, a private investigative firm. This book is the first in a series of Baby Ganesh Agency Investigations. The second novel is titled “The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown.”
This mystery offers a tantalizing portrait of modern-day India. Links to the past include traditional foods, religious practices and beliefs that exist side-by-side with the frantic race of 21st century entrepreneurial and corporate enterprises in India. The unusual intelligence of elephants and their connections to humanity offer another layer of insights. This book provides a wonderful way to learn about the people and customs of India through the medium of a mystery series.
~review by Elizabeth Hazel
Author: Vaseem Khan
2015, Redhook Books
291 pg., $15.99 pb