The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star by Vaseem Khan #bookreview (@VaseemKhanUK) @HodderBooks

isbn9781473646896

“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…”

This is the third book in the Baby Ganesh Agency series by Vaseem Khan, but the first one I have read (I’d like to say it’s because I’m a maverick, but really it’s just because of my self-imposed book-buying moratorium and the fact that I was given this as a birthday gift!). It doesn’t appear to matter that I am reading them out of sequence, this book functions perfectly as a standalone novel, but I will definitely be going back to read the first two.

The central character of the novel is Inspector Chopra, a retired police officer-turned-private detective in Mumbai and the plot follows him as he tries to unravel the mystery of the kidnapping of a famous but wayward Bollywood actor. He is helped, and sometimes amusingly hindered, in his efforts by a colourful cast of supporting characters, including his cute little elephant sidekick, Ganesha, about whom there is more than a whiff of the supernatural – he appears to have attributes not bestowed on your average baby elephant.

This book is a light-hearted detective story, along the lines of Alistair McCall Smith’s No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series or the Agatha Raisin books by M.C. Beaton and I believe fans of those series would enjoy Vaseem Khan’s work. The main kidnapping plot is fun and frenzied, with enough twists and turns to keep the grey matter occupied, but the main joys of the book are the characters and the fabulous, exotic setting of Mumbai. The author truly does a wonderful job of bringing all the life and flavour of Mumbai alive in this book, and anyone who likes their stories set in an far-flung location, that is really captured as if it were an additional character in the tale, will not be disappointed.

Inspector Chopra is a character who is very easy to warm to, which is important for the central protagonist in a book of this nature – we need to be rooting for the hero. He is honest, unassuming, moral but very pragmatic and a with a healthy dose of impatience for his old colleagues in the police force and their rules and regulations when they get in the way of his pursuing the case – I really liked that about him. His wife, Poppy, I think perhaps was my favourite character. Not the subservient Indian housewife in a supporting role that you might expect to find, but an independent and feisty woman who is a true partner and support to Chopra, a woman after my own heart. I love writers who include strong and equal female characters in their work.

There is a lovely sub-plot in the book involving flamboyant eunuchs, a long-buried secret and Chopra’s ex-policeman colleague in a ‘fish-out-of-water’ situation that had me grinning from ear to ear. Fantastic fun.

This is a sweet, easy and amusing read with characters you will love, and imbued throughout with all the spice and spectacle of India. If you are looking for a book to warm your cockles and cheer you up, you couldn’t do much better.

The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star is out now and you can buy it here.

About the Author

Vaseem Khan first saw an elephant lumbering down the middle of the road in 1997 when he arrived in India to work as a management consultant. It was the most unusual thing he had ever encountered and served as the inspiration behind his series of crime novels.

He returned to the UK in 2006 and now works at University College London for the Department of Security and Crime Science where he is astonished on a daily basis by the way modern science is being employed to tackle crime. Elephants are third on his list of passions, first and second being great literature and cricket, not always in that order.

A Test of Willpower

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Firstly, apologies to those of you who started following my blog after my initial post for my failure to follow up until now. It was my intention to post at least two book reviews and one other post a week, but you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men. I should have known better than to start a new project in January – otherwise known as silly season for travel agents. I promise to try and do better going forwards.

Anyway, I am currently writing this on my iPad in the Plaza Premium Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 2, waiting to board a flight to Chicago for a 4-night city break in the Windy City with my other half (henceforth to be known as The Irishman).  Following my intention to use this blog as a record of my attempt to buy no new books this year, and use it as a tool to keep me on the straight and narrow, this post is my equivalent of attending an AA meeting for book addicts, as today is my biggest test so far of my willpower.

BECAUSE I LOVE BUYING BOOKS AT AIRPORTS!

And I mean, really, really love it. They might be my favourite place to buy books, and browsing book shops is definitely my favourite way to while away the tedious minutes between check-in and boarding. There are numerous reasons for this:

– all the new titles are here

– I’m going on holiday, so unfettered, guilt-free reading time lays ahead

– buying things for holidays is a necessity, not a treat, so totally justified

but mainly because of

– TRADE PAPERBACKS!!!!!

For those who don’t know what a trade paperback is, they are the over-sized paperback version of new books that are only currently available outside airports in hardback. So, hardback books in a cheaper, paperback version so it’s lighter to carry – what’s not to love about that? I adore a trade paperback.

My favourite author to buy in this format, and most of my complete set of his books are trade paperbacks, is John Grisham. John Grisham is the perfect holiday read. His books are well-written and gripping but not so arduous as to be hard work, because who needs to work hard on holiday? And, as a former lawyer myself, I do love a legal thriller.

But, no new John Grisham for me on this trip. We dashed straight from Security to this lounge,body-swerving all enticing purveyors of papery temptation en route. So far so good, but I fear a long 10 months and several more treacherous trips to airports lay ahead.

For now though, the second half of Claire Macintosh’s ‘I See You’ awaits on my Kindle to keep me company, and 9 hours of unadulterated reading time lays ahead, so it ain’t all bad.