The Strange Disppearance of a Bollywood Star by Vaseem Khan (Baby Ganesha Agency #3)

baby ganesh 3.jpgTitle: The Strange Disppearance of a Bollywood Star

Author: Vaseem Khan

Genre: Crime and Mystery

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Hachette Australia

Published: 16th May 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 360

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: In the third delightful Baby Ganesh Agency novel, Inspector Chopra investigates the darkly glittering underbelly of Bollywood when a film star vanishes into thin air…

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…

~*~

Ashwin Chopra, his wife, Poppy, and their little elephant, Ganesha return in this third instalment of the wonderful Baby Ganesh Agency series. This time, the star of an upcoming Bollywood movie, Vicky Verma, has gone missing at a promotional performance for the movie and his role, with Chopra and Ganesha in the audience. Together, they watch him vanish and supposedly reappear on stage, and from there, the investigation begins. Chopra speaks to the movie company, and the director, PK Das, Bijli Verma, Vicky’s mother and anyone else who has ever worked with or known Vicky during his attempts to find him. At the same time, Chopra’s partner, Rangwalla is caught up in an investigation amongst a eunuch community, where he goes undercover to investigate the activities they are being lured into, and so, he agrees to help the Queen find out what is going on. As Rangwalla and Chopra investigate their cases, ACP Rao, the officer whom Chopra bested in the last book during the Koh-I-Noor investigation, simmers in the background as a threat to Chopra and his case, leading to a series of events that Chopra, Ganesha, Poppy and their friends must find a way to get out of so that Chopra can find Verma and the person, or people who took him. But, as with any case, things are not what they seem, nor are they as simple as one might think, and Chopra’s confusion and disillusionment with the Bollywood industry and the way they operate, illuminating the way these people treat others, and this is contrasted with the case Rangwalla looks into, and the slums where the eunuchs live, their isolation from society and the way they are seen by others, as something to be discarded almost – but still retain their humanity and appreciate what Rangwalla does for them.

The contrast between the cases shows the spectrum of society in Chopra’s Mumbai, and shows that money cannot buy affections or humanity, a theme that weaves through both cases eventually, and as Chopra comes to the conclusion of his third case, the flaws of humanity and the way people react in the face of the truth illustrates that you cannot judge someone without knowing them or only knowing a public persona that they might hide behind – but the way Vaseem Khan has presented this moral was effective and done in a way that wasn’t overtly obvious, but could still be understood by the reader.

Poppy was at her finest in this book – she is a strong, capable character who has flaws and vulnerability and can be every bit as sneaky and deceptive as her husband – skills that she has picked up from Chopra. She is fast becoming a favourite of mine, because she takes no prisoners and doesn’t give up on those she cares about. And how could I not mention the star of the series, Baby Ganesha, the little elephant that started it all when he came to Chopra as an inheritance from a dead relative. Ganesha is more than just a pet – he is a special elephant whose diet consists mainly of Cadbury’s Milk Chocolate, a habit that not even Chef Lucknowwallah or Poppy can break him of. Ganesha knows when to help, and when his Chopra is in trouble – and he has saved the day before, and is loyal to Chopra, Poppy and Irfan in the fiercest way possible.

This third story with its dual plot meanders at a gentle pace, and without a hint of unnecessary gore and violence. When things get complicated and dangerous, Poppy finds a way to sort things out and ensure nobody gets hurt. As in the first two books, Ganesha comes to Chopra’s rescue at least once, and is perhaps the true hero of the series, even though it is usually Rangwalla and Chopra who uncover the truth, sometimes in unconventional and unexpected ways. The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star is a wonderful addition to a series with a difference, and one that will hopefully continue for many years to come. I look forward to next year’s book, and hopefully, many more after that.

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My Year of Reading in 2016: Reviewing, A Challenge and My Favourites

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In 2016, I read seventy-one books, twenty-five of which were part of a reading challenge, and most were books I had been sent to review from various publishers and their imprints. It was the year I started reviewing properly, and got things moving with my blog. As I began this journey of book blogging, I found that I discovered books I would not have otherwise picked up in store – some for good reason because they most certainly were not what I enjoy reading, others because I would have had to given it some thought, whilst there were many that I devoured and enjoyed, and not just review books. I finished off the year with one that I wasn’t so keen on from Hachette, due out on the tenth of January 2017. It is one I am unlikely to read again, unlike the Inspector Chopra books, or Sulari Gentill’s Rowland Sinclair books, or Harry Potter.

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My high school ancient history teacher ran the challenge I took part in this year via Facebook, and there were several categories that I struggled to fill. By the end of the year, though, I had completed the challenge, and below is the list of categories and what I read for each one:

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2016 Reading Challenge

A Book That Became A Movie: The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham

A Book with a Number in the Title: Third Time Lucky by Karly Lane

A Book Written by Someone Under 30: Raelia by Lynette Noni

A Mystery or Thriller: The Falls by B. Michael Radburn

A Book With A one word Title: Virgins by Diana Gabaldon

A Non-Fiction Book: The Jane Austen Writer’s Club by Rebecca Smith

A Popular Author’s First Book: Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone by J.K Rowling

A Pulitzer Prize Winning Book: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

A Book Based on a True Story: Is It Night or Day? By Fern Schumer-Chapman

A Book That Came out the Year You Were Born (1986): Going Solo by Roald Dahl

A Book Published this Year: Confused by Wanda Wiltshire

A Book With a bad review: The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan

A Book from Your Childhood: Northern Lights/The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

A Book Set in the Future: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

A Book with a Colour in the title: Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix

A Book with Magic: The Hawkweed Prophecy by Irina Brignull

A Book With Antonyms in the Title: Night and Day by Virginia Woolf

A Book that has been translated: Between Enemies by Andrea Molesini

A Book written by an author with the same initials: When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne

A Book with a female heroine: The Blood of Wolves by S.D. Gentill

A Book set in Spring: The Lost Sapphire by Belinda Murrell

A Book with a Green Cover: Fearless by Fiona Higgins

A Book Set Somewhere You Want to Visit: The Farm at the Edge of the World by Sarah Vaughan (Cornwall)

A Book with Pictures: A Most Magical Girl by Karen Foxlee

A Book You Own but have never read: The Winter Isles by Antonia Senior


Challenge Completed

Raelia

Perhaps one of the trickiest to fill was a book with a bad review as reviews are always subjective. The book I filled that category with had a mix of bad, good and average, and I gave it a good review, but with at least one bad review, I felt that it was okay to use it there, and another was a book set in he future – of which there are many, yet the only one on my shelf at the time was The Hunger Games. In order to complete this challenge, I had to re-read a few books, such as a book from my childhood, and a popular author’s first book. Many books on this list were also review books, which solved my problem of filling categories such as a book with a green cover, and a translated book. I enjoyed this challenge, and am eager to attempt it with the same group of people this year again, and hopefully my review books will fill some categories.

Reviewing was new to me this year. I started in 2015, during an internship and worked from there, reviewing what I could, and requesting review copies, which come at least monthly now, sometimes with several books due out on the same day. This is where scheduled posts come in handy, where I can write the post and get it ready once I have read the book. In doing this, I free up time to write other posts and read other books when I get them.

born-a-crimeWriting reviews for books that aren’t my taste or that I don’t enjoy, or just find a bit boring or not quite up there can be hard. I want to be honest, but at the same time, be positive, so I’ve taken to giving balanced reviews, saying good and bad things about them, and hopefully that doesn’t hurt anyone, reader, reviewer or author. Honest reviews can help guide people too. My review website has slowly been improved over the months as I’ve found my way around WordPress and it’s functions – I tend to learn by doing it on my own, before asking for help with some things. I hope to review much more in 2017, without having to juggle studying as well, but at some stage will likely be juggling a job whilst reviewing.

Now onto the hardest part of my wrap up post – choosing my top reads. I’m never quite sure whether to do a top five or a top ten, nor do I feel like putting them in any order that rates one book over another – some books are hard to rate above or below another, so in no particular order or preference, the top seven books I enjoyed this year:

  • The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth – I always enjoy Kate’s books and her fairy tale retellings are exceptional. Her latest, The Beast’s Garden, takes place in Germany during World War Two, and the horrors endured by Ava and those close to her. It is a disturbing yet fascinating read.
  • Raelia by Lynette Noni – book two in the Medoran Chronicles Series, Raelia takes us back to Akarnae and Medora, with Alex, Bear, Jordan and D.C. and an ongoing fight against people who wish to harm Alex and those she cares for.
  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah – a memoir about growing up mixed race in South Africa – and not fitting into any of the legal categories, at a time when his very existence was a crime, Trevor Noah handles those dark days with humour and grace, and a mother who he knew never to cross.
  • Heartless by Marissa Meyer – an origin tale for the Queen of Hearts from Lewis heartlessCarroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Meyer’s story shows how the Queen of Hearts became the character in the original, a girl who had dreams that fate thwarted.
  • Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz a murder mystery within a murder mystery, a fictional author and his manuscript lead an editor on a real life mystery that is written in an extremely clever and effective way.
  • The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan 
  • The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown by Vaseem Khan – I enjoyed both Baby Ganesh books and their characters for the refreshing take on the crime genre and the private detective. Chopra has a place with Rowland Sinclair, Phryne Fisher and Mma Ramtoswe as a private detective who tends to get himself into a little bit of a pickle with each case, but his loyal friends and family are always there to back him up, along with his elephant, Ganesha.

There are many more books I enjoyed this year, but these are definitely amongst my favourites. For various reasons, of course, and I have the third book by Lynette Noni, Draekora, to look forward to in April.

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In 2017, I hope to read as many, if not more, wonderful books. Keep watching this site for more reviews over the coming months.

Many thanks to Hachette, Pantera Press, Allen and Unwin, Bloomsbury, and all their imprints who have sent me some wonderful books to read, enjoy and review, and share with the world.

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The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown by Vaseem Khan

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Title: The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown

Author: Vaseem Khan

Genre: Crime

Publisher: Mulholland Books, an Imprint of Hachette

Published: 10th May 2016

Format: Paperback

Pages: 320

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: The delightful second novel in the Mumbai-set Baby Ganesh Detective Agency series. When the Koh-I-Noor diamond is stolen from an exhibition of the crown jewels only one man (and his elephant) can crack the case…

For centuries the Koh-I-Noor diamond has set man against man and king against king. Now part of the British Crown Jewels, the priceless gem is a prize that many have killed to possess.

 

 

So when the Crown Jewels go on display in Mumbai, security is everyone’s principal concern. And yet, on the very day Inspector Chopra goes to see the diamond, it is stolen from under his nose in a daring and seemingly impossible heist.

 

 

The hunt is on for the culprits. And when an old friend stands accused, Inspector Chopra takes on the case. With sidekick baby elephant Ganesha in tow, Chopra soon realises that there is more at play than a simple case of greed.

 

~*~

 

Inspector Ashwin Chopra (Retd) and his baby elephant, Ganesha, return in the fabulous follow-up to The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra. When the Koh-I-Noor Diamond from the Crown Jewels is stolen from under Chopra’s nose, he must find out who stole it and return it to the right people. Together with Ganesha, Chopra starts his investigation, whilst running a restaurant for cops, where young Irfan works, and his wife, Poppy, recruits his associate detective, Rangwalla, to investigate the theft of a bust and exam papers at a school she works at. These storylines complement each other and run alongside each other neatly. Detectives from England, Bomberton and the young Scot, McTavish, assist Chopra – working together, these characters bring the worlds of Great Britain and Mumbai together. United by the desires and need to find the missing jewel that connects their two countries, Bomberton and Chopra forge a relationship to achieve these goals.

Ganesha becomes involved in tracking down the diamond and gaining access to the homes of certain high-up criminals who have an interest in having the diamond – and his unique position and abilities as an elephant are soon catching the attentions of various people who wish him harm. As in the first book, Ganesha will have none of this, and when separated from those he loves, will do all he can to find them – even if it means going without his Cadbury’s chocolate for a while!

Vaseem Khan has created a multi-layered world of Mumbai and India, with honest people like Chopra, Poppy and Irfan, dishonest people like Bulbul Kanodia, the characters disillusioned with everything who pop up and try to stamp down the kindness, or those who are simply caught in the cross-fire like Chopra’s friend, Garewal. Amidst the deception, and helping those who have been wronged like Garewal, blamed for things they never did, Chopra and Ganesha’s relationship – man and elephant – never falters. They are loyal to each other. In a world where good and evil are not always defined, where money talks and honesty may not be valued by many of the characters Chopra encounters, Chopra and Ganesha, and Poppy show that honesty and bravery, with perhaps a little trickery when necessary, can win the day and solve the most pressing cases for the Baby Ganesh Investigation Agency.

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra

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Title: The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra (Book One of the Baby Ganesh Agency Series)

Author: Vaseem Khan

Genre: Crime Fiction

Publisher: Mullholland Books/Hodder

Published: 11th August, 2015 (first edition), 23rd February 2016 (B-Format)

Format: paperback

Pages: 320

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Mumbai, murder and a baby elephant combine in a charming, joyful mystery for fans of Alexander McCall Smith and Harold Fry.

 

On the day he retires, Inspector Ashwin Chopra inherits two unexpected mysteries.

 

The first is the case of a drowned boy, whose suspicious death no one seems to want solved.

 

And the second is a baby elephant.

 

As his search for clues takes him across the teeming city of Mumbai, from its grand high rises to its sprawling slums and deep into its murky underworld, Chopra begins to suspect that there may be a great deal more to both his last case and his new ward than he thought.

 

And he soon learns that when the going gets tough, a determined elephant may be exactly what an honest man needs…

 

~*~

Inspector Ashwin Chopra has spent his whole life as a police officer on the streets of Mumbai. He is forced into early retirement, on the same day a case that nobody wants to solve tumbles onto his desk. When he arrives home, he is greeted with a baby elephant, willed to him by his Uncle Bansi. Chopra at first is at a loss, as he studies elephants and starts to care for the elephant, whilst solving the murder nobody wanted to touch. As Chopra and his baby elephant, christened Ganesha, investigate the murder, they are pulled into a dark underworld of Mumbai that heralds danger and secrets that many have worked to keep hidden from Chopra, one of the most respectable Inspectors on the local police force. Ganesha soon proves what he can do, and lives up to the letter from Uncle Bansi about him, and the fact that he is no ordinary elephant.

 

It was the baby elephant image and the intriguing title that drew me to this book, and reading the blurb on the back, I knew I had to read it. Vaseem Khan has created an India that is beautiful and dangerous, that acknowledges the good and the bad, and where each character has layers. Chopra is a straight-laced officer, abiding by the law, and quite shocked when he receives Ganesha. His growth across the novel sets up nicely for the second novel. While Chopra is preoccupied with his private investigations with the aid of Inspector Rangwalla, and of course, Ganesha, his wife, Poppy, is trying to help family, and formulating a plan to help them, fighting Mrs Subramanium about Ganesha and other issues that impact their complex. Through these characters, their lives and the events that occur and intersect throughout the novel, Vaseem Khan explores views on class and the individual, and certain expectations, and the divide between modern India and a more traditional India – he is creating a world where the two intersect magnificently and where each tries to find a compromise with the other to make it work. The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra has a lovely balance of light heartedness, humour and shadows that threaten the characters, and Vaseem Khan carries off the balance in a similar way to Alexander McCall-Smith and Precious Ramotswe in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. Like Precious and Mma Makutsi, Chopra is tasked to investigate missing husbands or children, or financial affairs, or to look at a case from an angle the police may not have thought of. Reading this book was a joy, Ganesha’s love of Cadbury’s Milk Chocolate was adorable – as Bansi’s letter said: he is no ordinary elephant. A great read for fans of Alexander McCall-Smith, cosy crime or just a good book.