#Review: The Unexpected Inheritance Of Inspector Chopra 5* Genius and Q&A with author Vaseem Khan.

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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
The synopsis:

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.

My review:

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&A:

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.

Vaseem Khan

Authors links:
Web: https://vaseemkhan.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/VaseemKhanUK @VaseemKhanUK
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VaseemKhanOfficial/

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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! 🙂

Q&A with Edgar Award Nominee Joe Ide, author of IQ

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Joe Ide is the author of the phenomenal debut novel IQ. The novel has recently been nominated for an Edgar Allen Poe award for best first novel. Joe has kindly agreed to a Q&A on my blog.

Synopsis of IQ:

East Long Beach. The LAPD is barely keeping up with the high crime rate. Murders unsolved, OAPs are getting hoodwinked, children are missing. But word has spread: if you’ve got a case the police can’t or won’t touch, Isaiah Quintabe will help you out.

They call him IQ. He’s a loner and a high school dropout, his unassuming nature disguising a relentless determination and a fierce intelligence. He charges his clients whatever they can afford, which might be a set of tyres or some homemade muffins. But now he needs a client who can pay. And the only way to that client is through a jive-talking, low-life drug dealer he thought he’d left behind. Then there’s the case    itself. A drug-addled rap star surrounded by a crew of flunkies who believes his life is in danger; a hit man who even other hit men say is a lunatic; and a monster killer dog. If he solves this case, IQ can put right a mistake he made long ago. If he doesn’t, it won’t just be the hit man coming after him…

Q&A:

Q) Joe, please feel to tell the readers a bit about yourself?

A) My grandparents lived in South Central because of its proximity to Little Tokyo and my family lived with them because my folks were just scraping by.   My grandparents were very old world and isolated. They spoke almost no English and although they’d lived in the same house for decades, they knew none of their neighbours.   My grandmother wore kimonos around the house and kept a Japanese garden. My grandfather was an authority on samurai swords.

My parents were fluent in both English and Japanese. My Mom was a secretary and my Dad worked at a community center. They aspired to be middle class mainstream and live in the suburbs and that’s the life they wanted for their kids. But me and my three brothers had adapted to the neighborhood. Most of our friends were black so naturally we co-opted their speech, style, attitudes and musical tastes. As you can imagine, there was a fair bit of culture clash in the Ide household. The situation was made even more confusing by my grandparents and parents because they insisted we maintain a connection to our cultural heritage which never really worked out the way they’d hoped. I was kicked out of Japanese school. I was kicked out of judo, both times for sleeping. (I’ve been asked how it’s possible to get kicked out of judo for sleeping. The answer is quite simple. Don’t come out of the locker room, find a cosy corner and there you are). My older brother was booted out of a Japanese Boy Scout Troop for buying his merit badges. (The whole Boy Scout ethos seems to have eluded him.) That unsettling mishmash of influences left me with something of an identity problem. I wasn’t black, I wasn’t white, I was pretty far from being Japanese. I felt like a misfit, a label I carry contentedly to this day. .

 

Q) I absolutely loved this novel, it is everything I have been calling for in terms of new talent and a unique concept with lots of diversity. As stated above you debut novel has been nominated for an Edgar. Talk us through the process from idea to publication to nomination?

A) When I first thought about writing a book, the question was, a book about what? I didn’t have enough expertise or interest in any one subject to write non-fiction, my life was hardly worth a memoir so a novel seemed like the best choice. Since it was my first book, I thought it best to stay within my wheelhouse. As a kid, my favourite books were the original Sherlock Holmes stories. I read all fifty six stories and four novels multiple times.   I was fascinated with the character. Like me, he was an introvert that didn’t fit in, but unlike me, he defeated his enemies and controlled his world, with just his brains. I was a small kid in a big neighbourhood and that idea affected me deeply.  Since IQ was my first novel, I thought it best to follow the old adage, write what you know. A Sherlockian character was the only thing that occurred to me. I was also comfortable writing about the inner city and wah lah, Sherlock in the hood was born.

            I wrote the book in complete and total obscurity. I didn’t know any agents or anybody in publishing. I was only hoping I wouldn’t have to self-publish and flog copies in the doggie park. When I finished the manuscript, I sent it out to readers, one of whom is my cousin, Francis Fukuyama. He’s a world renowned political scientist. He was the one that predicted the fall of the Soviet Union, his books and publications are required reading in his field, and he’s on the board at Rand. (One of those guys you can’t believe you share DNA with.) To my surprise, he liked the book and offered to give it to his agent, Esther Newberg – who is arguably the top literary agent in New York, and miraculously, she liked the book too. Powerhouse that Esther is, she sold it to Little Brown in a couple of weeks and a few weeks later, it was optioned for TV. (Talk about a run of luck).   When the reviews came in, I was incredibly flattered, but mostly I was incredulous. Because of the circumstances under which I wrote it, it was a little cooking dinner for your family and winning a James Beard Award. The Edgar nomination came out of the blue.   I had no idea the publisher had even put me up for it.

Q) I am a huge fan of Walter Mosley, who won last year’s Grand Master Edgar. Some in the industry have speculated long overdue. Do you think attitudes are changing? Are books with a diverse narrative becoming more popular in their respective genres?

A) I think social awareness has helped the cause but it’s also about the quality the book. Walter Moseley and Toni Morrison’s books would be read no matter what the ethnicity of the characters. Conversely, a lousy book is a lousy book no matter who writes it.

Q) The novel has themes of rap music and rap moguls. Are you yourself a fan of rap music? and if so what are your favourite rappers/songs?

A) I am not a rap fan. It wasn’t the music I grew up with so I have no emotional connection to it, any more than I do with classical music. I have a few older albums in my collection. Notorious B.I.G, All Eyez On Me, The Chronic. Anything after that I had to research.

Q) Who are your favourite authors? What are your most loved and recommended novels?

A) Walter Moseley, Chester Himes, Elmore Leonard, John LeCarre, William Gibson, Toni Morrison, Don Winslow and the list goes on. Books? Too many to list.

Q) This is the question I am dying to know the answer to! Is IQ a series? And can we have any glimpses into what is to come in book 2?

A) Book 2, titled “Righteous” will be out this October. Isaiah, Dodson and Deronda will be back, Isaiah will develop a love interest, and of course, there’s a new, big case, and new bad guys (one of them is seven feet tall).

*Thank you Joe Ide so much for being part of this Q&A on my blog. It is hugely appreciated. I wish you the very best of luck with your novel and your Edgar nomination.

Learn more about Joe Ide: www.joeide.com