Author : Manreet Sodhi Someshwar
Genre : Historical Thriller
Book Cover :(
Published by : Westland
My Ratings : 4/5
Mehrunisa Khosa is a Mughal Scholar with an Indo- Persian lineage who while studying the Persian calligraphy in Taj Mahal ,stumbles upon a conspiracy to destroy the national monument and replant it as a Hindu Shiva temple. She found the calligraphy on the cenotaph of Mumtaz Mahal altered ......and got herself involved in murder and mayhem with the only way to come out unscathed is to uncover the conspiracy and save the Taj-one of the wonders on the earth, a symbol of national pride....and the last link to her own Indo-Persian heritage.
The book is engaging historically, culturally and emotionally.
It deals neutrally with urban legends of Taj and provides a sensitive peek in to the mausoleum. It definitely brought me closer to the monument ...making me see the human side of the building irrespective of ShahJahan marrying Mumtaz's sister /daughter or whatever.
Irrespective of what the emperor did after the queen's death , Taj does represent love.The beauty of the architecture, the design and the details of the lattice work, stone, acoustics, domes, symbols and the calligraphy cast their spell on me. If not for the faithfulness of the emperor then for the conception and execution of Taj by the artists,the engineers and now the caretakers and historians, I am awed and felt close to it after this book.
The author did a great job of writing a conspiracy.It provides thrill and doubts, impostors and fraud at a regular pace. The book is not extensively researched or cerebral .It toys with history,myths, art and culture lightly albeit in a pleasant manner.It is easy on mind though we could do with more research but no complaints! It hits at the mark.The reader is thrilled, is intoxicated by the grandeur of Taj and the occasional discussion of Renaissance art as well as is kept on toes to unmask the impostor and save the day.
The Ummm Points
1. ) One is that I got ASI Director under suspicion as soon as he ate a bowl full of walnuts and got wrapped himself in a muffler.(Guess this was intentional)
2.) Two- at the Jaipur Haveli, he almost gave himself away and I was convinced of his double identity.
3.) Three- on the discovery of the 'door framed table' truth was SO lucid that it takes a blind man not to see it.
4.) The fourth is regarding Pamposh. Her characterization does not match with her deeds.Her psyche with her actions. How can she be so irrationally fanatic to help destroy Taj just because it represents Persian lineage when she is calm and tolerant enough to house and school orphan Muslim children ?
The above two I can bear thinking that I sensed by fluke or that the author wants me to sense, but the last two points really irked me.That's why 4/5.
The Cover is a BIG let down.Now a days when beautiful mind boggling covers are being produced how come they settled down for such an unimaginative sodden damp image. Specially when the book deals with beautiful Taj ,artistic Persian calligraphy and various intricate symbols of Hindu and Islamic heritage. Sigh!
Still Something Superb
I MUST congratulate the writer Manreet for making me read such good language in a contemporary DESI thriller and the flawless characterization.Special mention to Mehrunnisa Khosa and special exclusion of Pamposh.
I was pleasantly amazed by her choice of words and was suitably impressed my her writing style. eg-
"Outside the wind must have picked up, for the house had begun to sigh like an old woman." Pg 312
Being a classic lover I liked the splattering of culturo-heritage talks with a flavour of history,sprinkled with art and architecture and garnished with thrills .The Renaissance conversation between Toor and Mehr at the Dhaba was interesting as well as integral to the mystery.
The protagonist Mehrunisa Khosa is very well drawn and nuanced character ,culturally rich, strong, determined, gullible yet erudite and yes as per Toor - Classic.
Strongly recommended if you have a flair for words,love history and tend to ignore certain Ummm factors.
For more pictures of the Taj, do visit HERE