Sunday, April 07, 2013

Madhulika Liddle - Engraved in Stone

We were introduced to a dashing and handsome nawab in 'The Englishman's Cameo' by Madhullika Liddle.  According to a wikipedia entry,
The Englishman’s Cameo introduces Muzaffar Jang, a twenty-five-year-old Mughal nobleman living in the Delhi of 1656 AD. Muzaffar ends up investigating a murder of which his friend, a jeweller’s assistant, is accused. The book became a bestseller in India, and was published in French by Editions Philippe Picquier, as Le Camée Anglais.
Muzaffar Jang is young, intelligent, futuristic and well read.  His parents died when he was young.  He was brought up by his wise and kindly older sister, Zeenat and brother-in-law.  In the first book, Muzaffar takes upon himself the task of investigating a murder to help his friend.

Eighth Guest and other Muzaffar Jang mysteries is a collection of short stories featuring Muzaffar Jang as he goes about solving various mysteries.  Although the stories can be read independent of each other, there is a thread of continuity between them.

Engraved in Stone is the latest novel in the series.  Catching the eye of the high and mighty is not always an advantage, Muzaffar knows.  When the Diwan-e-kul hands the task of finding the murderer of Mumtaz Hassan, a prominent trader, to Muzaffar, he is not entirely thrilled.  One misstep and he could find himself on the gallows.  Muzaffar sets off immediately, chasing after an elusive murderer before his trail gets cold.

He is aided by his loyal friend and cousin Akram.  Not 'aided' really.  Merely 'accompanied' by.  Akram is a bit of a dandy and is happy being a pampered nawab with a good heart.  I am always happy to see Akram by Muzaffar's side, he is good fun.  I hope he is there in ALL of Muzaffar's books.

The USP of these books is the beautiful backdrop of historical Dilli.  I love the descriptions of the bazaar, the clothes, the men (and women) and their manners, the food, the jewellery.   I can feel the swish of their chogas and dupattas as they go about their business.  Madhulika's sound knowledge of history and faultless language is what enhances this effect.

This time round, Muzaffar has a love interest as well.  Beautiful Shireen was introduced to us in the last story of the previous book.  Zeenat is keen on Muzaffar settling down with Shireen.  Muzaffar is not sure about this, he has shadows in his heart, left by a previous love.

If you like historical fiction, you will love this book.  As I did. The only bit of annoyance for me was the harping on the perfection of Shireen.  I hope we will have no more of that in the future books.  Madhulika's writing is so evocative that it brings the world of Muzaffar to life. 


Raja Swaminathan said...

Your reviews are always a pleasure to read, Ava. They're crisp, rich in content and sound balanced. And I don't think I can say that for many reviews out there.

You should review more.

Ava Suri said...

Thank you Raja.

:) I intend to.

Thank you for your unwavering support.

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