Anne Bonny #BookReview Murder At The Grand Raj Palace by @VaseemKhanUK 5* Genius #CosyCrime #CrimeFiction #India @MulhollandUK ‘Perfect escapism and a cracking cosy crime mystery!’

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Murder At The Grand Raj Palace by Vaseem Khan
My own copy

In the enchanting new Baby Ganesh Agency novel, Inspector Chopra and his elephant sidekick investigate a murder at Mumbai’s grandest hotel.

For a century the iconic Grand Raj Palace Hotel has welcomed the world’s elite. From film stars to foreign dignitaries, anyone who is anyone stays at the Grand Raj.
The last thing the venerable old hotel needs is a murder…

When American billionaire Hollis Burbank is found dead – the day after buying India’s most expensive painting – the authorities are keen to label it a suicide. But the man in charge of the investigation is not so sure. Chopra is called in – and discovers a hotel full of people with a reason to want Burbank dead.

Accompanied by his sidekick, baby elephant Ganesha, Chopra navigates his way through the palatial building, a journey that leads him steadily to a killer, and into the heart of darkness . . .

My Review:

‘It was said that the Grand Raj Palace owed its existence to an insult’

The novel opens with the history of the Grand Raj Palace. A history that is rotted in the British colonialism. The hotel was then and is now, revered as a symbol of India’s ambition and self-worth. I love how the author has cleverly weaved historical details into the story and the novel itself is scattered with them.
It really adds to the beauty of what makes this series to great!

What also makes this series so great is the brilliant characterisation of Chopra and Poppy. They compliment each other perfectly and in this particular case poppy gets a mystery of her own to solve.
Their relationship and the way it flows from the page, makes for brilliant reading. With them both playing the role of ‘investigator’ in this novel, we the reader are in for a double treat!

‘The thought of confronting his wife when her temper was up was as attractive to him as placing his head into the mouth of a ravenous tiger’

Chopra is summoned to the hotel by a former police colleague Rohan Tripathi. After the death of American billionaire and hotel client Hollis Burbank. It is a case that will lead Chopra into the murky side of the side industry. Burbank was found with a knife in his chest in his hotel room. On the wall written in blood are the words ‘I am sorry’.
But what is Burbank sorry for? What is his motive for suicide?

Irfan, Chopra and Poppy’s adopted son and previous street urchin, makes a brief appearance in the novel. He is still tainted by his previous life and at 10yrs old has experienced far too much for a child. We hear Poppy’s thoughts on parenting and they every much echo my own.
‘The true definition of parenthood was the ability to love, to care, to put the welfare of another before one’s own’

Whilst Chopra persists to look into hotel security and deal with Lisa Taylor of the art auction house. Poppy determined not to be forgotten on her 25th wedding anniversary, makes herself and Irfan guests of the hotel. Where she stumbles upon a mysterious case. The case of the missing bride.

‘Everything is illusion,
and no one is who we believe they are’ – Chopra

It would appear that Burbank’s secrets lead deeper into India’s past and deeper within the ruthless and competitive art world.
But can Chopra solve the case?

There is a brilliant opening to a chapter on page 222. Where the author details the colonial history and India’s railway system. It is some of the finest writing, I even took a photo of it on my phone to save. I think that has been the niche of this particular novel, Vaseem Khan’s ability to merge the past and the present and write a brilliant story.

There is also a devious monkey, which adds a comedy element into the plot!
I found myself giggling whilst poor Ganesh shoulders the blame.

My favourite part of the novel is Poppy’s development as a main character. There is a particular scene where Poppy sticks up for herself and Irfan and it just reminded me that Poppy can hold her own. Poppy is a modern woman and the mystery she solves suits her character perfectly.

Perfect escapism and a cracking cosy crime mystery! 5* Genius!

Vaseem Khan
Vaseem Khan

Anne Bonny #BookReview The Strange Disappearance Of A Bollywood Star by @VaseemKhanUK 5* Genius @MulhollandUK #InspectorChopra #Ganesh #Mumbai #India

The Strange Disappearance Of A Bollywood Star by Vaseem Khan

The enchanting new Baby Ganesh Agency novel sees Inspector Chopra and his elephant sidekick investigating the dark side of Bollywood.

Mumbai thrives on extravagant spectacles and larger-than-life characters.

But even in the city of dreams, there is no guarantee of a happy ending.

Rising star and incorrigible playboy Vikram Verma has disappeared, leaving his latest film in jeopardy. Hired by Verma’s formidable mother to find him, Inspector Chopra and his sidekick, baby elephant Ganesha, embark on a journey deep into the world’s most flamboyant movie industry.

As they uncover feuding stars, failed investments and death threats, it seems that many people have a motive for wanting Verma out of the picture.

And yet, as Chopra has long suspected, in Bollywood the truth is often stranger than fiction…

My Review:

This novel is the third in the Chopra and baby Ganesha series. It is set in modern-day Mumbai and it is easily one of my favourite series. I read the second novel whilst in hospital with severe DVT. I was bedbound and in agony, yet when I opened the book I was able to completely escape. This series transports you to India and with the clever plot, keeps you engaged in the plot and the characters.
So here goes for my review. . .

Inspector Ashwin Chopra is back! His wife Poppy’s heart is filled with love and happiness due to addition to their family Irfan. Poppy really develops as a character within this novel. It is brilliant to see her becoming a more central character in the series. I am a huge fan of Poppy, she just comes across, so incredibly well to readers.
Poppy has convinced Chopra to take her to see a local Bollywood show. The show will feature a comedian Jonny Pinto and notorious Bollywood playboy Vikram ‘Vicky’ Verma. There is a magical disappearing and re-appearing act, which leaves Chopra with a bee in his bonnet!

‘He had met many privileged individuals in his life – so often their lives were shadowed by unhappiness’

Shortly after the show, Chopra is intrigued to learn that Vicky has been confined to his house by a mysterious illness. Then Chopra finds himself summoned to Vicky’s mother’s exclusive residence in the Malabar Hill area. He learns from Bijli (Vicky’s mother) that Vicky has gone missing with no trace of his whereabouts. The set of his latest Bollywood movie is on standby until he returns.

‘This was India, after all, where the impossible became merely improbable’

Bijli Verma is quite the Bollywood sensation herself. She was a huge star and gained a cult following, until raising a family with her husband Jignesh Verma became her sole priority. Bijli is regarded as outspoken and brave. Often courting controversy in her wake and not afraid to stand up to the right-wing organisations in India’s political circuit. Bijli is not a woman that can be controlled, dominated or told. But now she finds herself in a difficult position. With her son missing and a movie backed by the Indian Global Bank. Bijli can not turn to the police force and needs complete discretion. Chopra finds himself in-charge of his most glamourous case to date!

Chopra begins his investigation by meeting with the various professionals in the Bollywood movie scene. He discovers that Vicky is not well liked. He may have the looks, style, wealth and playboy image but that doesn’t always generate the right kind of attention. Described as ‘mentally unstable’ and a loner, Chopra is coming to see a different side to Vicky altogether.

‘That boy collects enemies like the rest of us make friends’

Chopra is informed of a series of threatening notes sent to Vicky. With one sent on the first day of each month and signed from ‘the people’s judge’. Is this a simple ransom demand? If so where is the demand?

Chopra also learns from assistant director Farukh Mehboob in film city, that he was forced to hire Vicky at his mother’s demand via producer P.K Das. The only person that Chopra can establish as a friend of Vicky’s is fellow Bollywood starlet Poonam Panipat.

‘Bollywood is a nest of vipers, and what vipers feed on is the milk of scandal’ Poonam Panipat

When Poonam explains to Chopra the inner workings of the Bollywood elite, he comes to see that it is far from its glamorous image held in the public eye. Chopra is further shocked, when Poonam recounts exactly how she got her break in the movie industry.
It’s not just Hollywood, that holds its shady and seedy secrets.

‘Revenge has its consequences, not just on those it was extracted upon’

As Chopra continues his Bollywood case. Across Mumbai his right-hand man, Abbas Rangwalla has a unique case of his own. Rangwalla has been asked by close friend Gerry Fernandes to investigate the eunchs of Mumbai. It is a case that will challenge everything he previously believed in.

At Chopra and Poppy’s residence, Irfan comes to the rescue of a homeless woman. Who in return, saves Poppy’s sanity! Chopra’s business and home life continues to thrive, thanks to Poppy.

Bijli receives a ransom demand for 20 million rupees, with threats to return Vicky in pieces if she fails to comply. The case of the missing Bollywood star, is heating up and a mother would do anything to protect her son, wouldn’t she?

‘The best way to get your head shot of was to stick it above the parapet’

As Chopra tries to assist Bijli with the ransom demand, he finds more unanswered questions and will come up against an old nemesis. Chopra’s will find his opinions on justice and power are fundamentally challenged.

‘A lifetime of policing had taught him that the word of a criminal was worth nothing’

The plot takes you on a journey through the Bollywood industry. Where stars will sell their soul to the devil for fame and status. The novel also has some strong emotional themes. The theme of parenting and raising offspring is a central theme. For a series that never boasts of having the ‘perfect couple’, Poppy and Chopra certainly are one!

The novel builds to a dramatic ending, layered with thought-provoking moments and a deep sense of unconditional love.
For me, this proves that Chopra is one of the finest diverse series.
5* Genius

‘The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others’ Gandhi

Vaseem Khan
Vaseem Khan
Author’s links:

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The Unexpected Inheritance Of Inspector Chopra #1 Review and Q&A
The Perplexing Theft Of The Jewel In The Crown #2 Listed in Favourites of 2017
The Strange Disappearance Of A Bollywood Star #3

Coming Soon. . . . . . 

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Murder At The Grand Raj Palace

In the enchanting new Baby Ganesh Agency novel, Inspector Chopra and his elephant sidekick investigate a murder at Mumbai’s grandest hotel.

For a century the iconic Grand Raj Palace Hotel has welcomed the world’s elite. From film stars to foreign dignitaries, anyone who is anyone stays at the Grand Raj.
The last thing the venerable old hotel needs is a murder…

When American billionaire Hollis Burbank is found dead – the day after buying India’s most expensive painting – the authorities are keen to label it a suicide. But the man in charge of the investigation is not so sure. Chopra is called in – and discovers a hotel full of people with a reason to want Burbank dead.

Accompanied by his sidekick, baby elephant Ganesha, Chopra navigates his way through the palatial building, a journey that leads him steadily to a killer, and into the heart of darkness . . .

Due for release 3rd May 2018 #CantWait 

#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) 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:
Twitter: @VaseemKhanUK

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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! 🙂