- review copy supplied by author
- #2 in the Maharajah series
- Paperback: 318 pages
- Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press; Reprint edition (March 6, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1464209200
- ISBN-13: 978-1464209208
December, 1911. All of India is in a tizzy. A vast tent city has sprung up outside the old walled enclave of Mughal Delhi, where the British are hosting a grand Durbar to celebrate the coronation of the new King, George V. From across India, all the Maharajas and Nawabs have gathered at the Viceroy of India's command to pay homage and swear loyalty to the King Emperor, the first monarch of England to travel out to India personally.
Maharaja Sikander Singh of Rajpore is growing increasingly bored, cooling his heels at the Majestic Hotel as he awaits George V's arrival. Just as his frustration is about to peak, a pair of British officers shoulders in. They insist that he accompany them to the British Encampment. Irked, but his curiosity piqued, Sikander agrees. To his surprise, they take him to the King Emperor's quarters where Sikander's old school friend, Malik Umar Hayat Khan, the Durbar herald, awaits. Malik Umar is serving Lord Hardinge, the Viceroy and the highest-ranked Englishman in the country. Lord Hardinge, overruling several subordinates, tells Sikander that his services as a sleuth are needed by King and country. Sworn to secrecy, Sikander is ushered into George V's personal chambers.
And there he finds the cause for his extraordinary summons - an exquisite nautch-girl, hanged until dead. Employing techniques he has learned from studying Eugene Vidocq and Sherlock Holmes, Sikander examines the scene and demonstrates the girl was not a suicide, but murdered.
Her death at the very heart of the encampment could ruin the enormously costly celebration and spark deep political repercussions in India and in England. Under this pressure, the Viceroy hands Sikander both the case to solve and a ticking clock - he must complete his investigation before George V arrives. And under the surveillance of one Captain Campbell of an elite British regiment.
The list of suspects and motives is too large, the number of hours for the task too few. But he gave his word and so the Maharaja must put his skills to work. In the end, Sikander wishes he had not.
King George V, Emperor of India, is about to arrive in Delhi for his very public coronation. The who's who of Indian society, Maharajahs and princes, and members of the British Raj, have arrived in their thousands. The Maharajahs and princes have set up pavilions and courts, all designed to show how rich and influential they are.
And in the middle of it all, in the King's own pavilion, an Indian dancer is found murdered. The King is due to arrive within 48 hours and Sikander Singh, Maharajah of Rajpore, who would much rather be a detective than a Maharajah, is asked by the Viceroy, to solve the mystery.
Blending fictitious with actual characters, the author presents us with a panoply of suspects, and authentic historical detail on a grand scale. I was impressed above all by the amount of research that must have gone into the writing of this book. The overall effect is sumptuous beyond measure.
If historical India is your "thing", then you will enjoy this.
My rating: 4.5
I have also read
4.3, A VERY PUKKA MURDER
About the author:
Arjun Raj Gaind is one of India's best known comic book writers. He is the creator and author of the critically acclaimed, best-selling graphic novels, Empire of Blood, Reincarnation Man, The Mighty Yeti, Project: Kalki, Blade of the Warrior: Kshatriya, and A Brief History of Death. A Very Pukka Murder was his debut novel, the first in a trilogy featuring the adventures of Maharaja Sikander Singh, set against the backdrop of princely India during the heyday of the British Raj.