“The next morning Inspector Chopra awoke for the first time in thirty-four years without the knowledge that he was a police officer.
For a while he lay in bed, staring up at the ceiling. He felt his body urging him to get up, shower, and put on his uniform. Inertia; wasn’t that what people called it? After all, when one has been running, it takes a while for the body to stop even though the finishing line has been crossed. When he arrived at the breakfast table, dressed in a plain white shirt and cotton trousers, he felt strangely naked.
Poppy was already bustling around the kitchen with the housemaid, Lata, and flashed him a welcoming smile. ‘How nice to have you home for breakfast,’ she beamed. ‘I’ve made your favorite: masala dosa with sambar.'”
Inspector Chopra has spent over thirty years on the police force in Mumbai, and the day before he is to retire for medical reasons, he receives a note from his uncle leaving him a baby elephant. But he can’t deal with that now; there are too many things on his mind. What about the distressed woman accusing the local police that they don’t care about her dead son? And what about his wife, Poppy, and her conviction that anything non-sedentary would cause him another and potentially fatal heart attack?
It’s an interesting tale, set in the wildly growing city of Mumbai, where money greases all wheels. True to the detective tradition, the setting comes alive as Chopra travels from place to place. Any inadequacies in visualization are solely my own, hamstrung as I am by life in the U.S. and lack of travel. The puzzle unfolds quite well, with one discovery leading to the next, although Chopra also spends hours and hours on stakeout. I found myself partially distracted with concerns on the care and feeding of elephants, which was likely not Khan’s intention. He should be careful how he uses pachyderms! The end takes a surprisingly dark and deep turn, perhaps incongruous with much of the earlier story, but I think perhaps fitting for the idea Khan wants to convey about Mumbai. But it all comes out well in the end.
I enjoyed it and will no doubt try the next in the series when in the mood for a gentle mystery. Recommended for fans of Inspector Singh (Shamini Flint), Dr. Siri (Colin Cotterill) and of Precious Ramotswe (Alexander McCall Smith), as well as anyone else who enjoys a mystery sans blood and gore.