Vaseem Khan is the very talented writer of the Inspector Chopra series. Set in modern day Mumbai, India. This series is very unique in the crime fiction genre in the UK.
#1 – The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra.
#2 – The Perplexing Theft Of The Jewel In The Crown.
#3 – The Strange Disappearance Of A Bollywood Star.
The unexpected Inheritance Of Inspector Chopra
On the day he retires, Inspector Ashwin Chopra discovers that he has inherited an elephant: an unlikely gift that could not be more inconvenient. For Chopra has one last case to solve…
But as his murder investigation leads him across Mumbai – from its richest mansions to its murky underworld – he quickly discovers that a baby elephant may be exactly what an honest man needs.
So begins the start of a quite unexpected partnership, and an utterly delightful new series.
Immerse yourself in Mumbai, India with this amazing series by Vaseem Khan. Rich in Indian culture, politics and the Mumbai way of life, it is one not to be missed!
The novel opens with Inspector Chopra receiving a baby elephant as a gift for his impending retirement. An elephant he neither loves nor wants……… at first! Inspector Chopra is serving his last day with the Mumbai Police force when he stumbles across a crime with a young dead male, having fallen in a sewage creek. Assumed to have been a drunken accident, Inspector Chopra is not convinced. How do you find a potential killer in a city of 20 million, when not even the police believe it is a crime?
We are slowly introduced to a wide variety of characters from Chopra’s life. With my favourite being, without a doubt Poppy, his wife. Poppy is a strong, feisty and no nonsense woman. She was so reminiscent of the Indian women I know. Through their history we learn that Chopra was forced to take an early retirement on medical grounds. But with too many unanswered questions, he cannot let the case of the dead boy go. We are also lead through the saga of his elephant Ganesh, the history of the elephant’s name is brilliant. It really is such a heart-warming and brilliant series.
There is exceptional depth in this debut for the series. The background stories, the mixture of Hindi/Muslim culture and the changes going on throughout Indian society make for fascinating reading. The most central theme appears to be that there is no justice for a mother and son, when your poor and Chopra simply cannot let that lie.
I can’t rate this series enough; it is everything I absolutely adore in a book. It’s rich in culture, diversity and very well written. A huge 5* Genius rating lit up in Bollywood lights!
Q) I read, in the cover, of the novel, the inspiration for this series. But for the readers, can you please give a summary of the series and your background?
A) The Baby Ganesh Detective Agency series is a crime series set in modern India. The lead character is Inspector Ashwin Chopra, a rigid and honest police officer in the Mumbai police service, who (in the first book in the series The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra) is forced into early retirement and on his last day in office is confronted by the body of a local boy. Chopra quickly realises that his seniors don’t want the boy’s death to be investigated, and so he sets off to solve the mystery on his own. At the same time, he must come to grips with the surreal dilemma of taking in a one-year-old baby elephant named Ganesha, sent to him by his long-lost uncle. The book was a Times bestseller, an Amazon Best Debut, and a Waterstones paperback of the year.
On a personal note, I grew up in East London, studied Finance at LSE, and went to India aged 23 to work as a management consultant. I spent ten wonderful years there. I wrote my first novel at 17, then wrote six more (unpublished) novels over the following 20 odd years, before a four-book deal with Hodder came along for the Baby Ganesh agency series.
Q) I absolutely loved the Indian culture and location of the novel. I found it unique and like nothing else in the crime fiction genre. Was this your intention, to offer up something so unique and memorable?
A) The decade I spent on the subcontinent was the most exciting time of my life. I saw first-hand the effects of globalisation on the country, which brought wealth and a new western sensibility to cities such as Mumbai. And yet I also saw how India’s ancient problems remained: poverty, slums, corruption, prejudice. This battle between old and new India seemed like the perfect backdrop to create a new detective series. As well as serving up compelling mysteries, my aim is to take readers on a journey to the heart of modern India, to give you an idea of what India looks like, sounds like, smells like, even tastes like.
Q) Poppy was one of my favourite characters from book #1 in the series. I have to know the inspiration behind her characterisation?
A) The role of women in Indian society is changing, with women coming to the fore more than in any era in India’s past. I wanted Poppy to be someone who embraces this idea of the ‘modern Indian woman’ but at the same time retains aspects of the ancient heritage of women on the subcontinent. She is emotional, feisty, warm-hearted, and generous. She is Chopra’s support, the love of his life, and a woman with a mind of her own.
Q) There was added depth, with the background stories of various characters. Was this the intention in the writing process?
A) India is so vast and Mumbai such a melting pot of people from all over India that I simply had to bring in secondary plots to run alongside the main story in each novel, just so that I could showcase some of these colourful supporting characters. Rangwalla – Chopra’s former sub-inspector and now associate detective in the agency – is my favourite. He is the opposite of Chopra, a streetwise cop who doesn’t always stick to the straight and narrow to get things done. I also have a soft spot for Chef Lucknowallah, who runs Chopra’s restaurant, where the detective agency is based. He’s loud, pompous, generous-hearted, and completely obsessed with his kitchen.
Q) I read somewhere that India is globally the most well-read country. Has the book received glowing praise in India?
A) I have had a great response from Indian readers. I think that one of the reasons for this is because I have tried to show India as she really is, not as a mythologised version of India that we are sometimes guilty of writing about in the west. The best compliments I get are from Indians who live abroad and write to tell me my books have transported them back home!
Q) What has been your favourite part of being a published author?
A) I waited 23 years to be published, with six rejected novels along the way. So now my favourite thing is simply connecting with readers, whether through blogs, social media, email, or in person at book festivals and book events. I enjoy talking to readers, and hearing what they liked – or didn’t like! – about my books.
Q) what are your favourite reads from childhood, to teens to adulthood?
A) Watership Down by Richard Adams. A children’s classic. Who would have thought a novel about rabbits could be full of adventure, intrigue and excitement?
Dune by Frank Herbert. I read a huge amount of SF as a teen, and this book is consistently voted the very best SF novel ever written. It follows the story of Paul Atriedes as he grows to manhood on the desert world Dune.
Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett. I first encountered the Discworld series with this novel, 25 years ago, for me the very best of the Discworld canon. In this book we are introduced to the Ankh-Morpork Night Watch, including Captain Sam Vimes, Corporal Nobby Nobbs and Sergeant Fred Colon, as they tackle a dragon threatening the city – with predictably hilarious consequences.
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. I still remember the first time I read this, the feeling of discovering something magical. It showed me that through words you could make readers nostalgic for a time and place they had never seen. This book was voted the best Booker prize winner in 40 years. It tells the story of modern India, using magical realism, through the eyes of Saleem Sinai who was born “at the precise instant of India’s arrival at independence”.
As a crime writer I read a lot of crime fiction – and my favourite is Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series. Bosch is the quintessential loner cop, the last gunslinger in glamorous L.A. My favourite in the series is Angel’s Flight.
Q) what can readers expect from the release of Book #3 in the series, out this May?
A) In the third book, Chopra is on the trail of a kidnapped Indian film star. The star in question, notorious Bollywood bad boy, Vikram ‘Vicky’ Verma, is kidnapped in front of a live audience. So Chopra has three mysteries to solve: how was Vicky kidnapped? Why him? And who is behind the kidnapping? To find Vicky, Chopra has to go behind the scenes of the world’s most flamboyant movie industry and soon discovers that in Bollywood the truth is often stranger than fiction.
The idea for this novel came to me when I was working in Mumbai. A famous film producer was gunned down in the street near where I worked. As a writer this instantly intrigued me. As I researched I discovered the relationship between Bollywood and organised crime. The producer survived but the incident left me convinced that there was a lot of fun to be had if I could lift the lid on Bollywood. This book aims to do just that.
*Huge thanks to Vaseem Khan for taking the time to do this Q&A for my blog and I wish him every success with the release of his new novel in May 2017.
The Strange Disappearance Of A Bollywood Star, is the latest release in the series, published on 4th May by Mulholland publishers and already has amazing reviews! 🙂