Thursday, October 22, 2015

Madhulika Liddle - Crimson City

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Delhi has turned into a Sin City. First, a cloth merchant, Aadil, has been brutally murdered for no apparent reason.  He had no enmity with anyone.  His stock of expensive cloth has been mauled but not stolen.  His clerk, Suraj Bhan, is puzzled over the sudden murder of his boss. Then, the family next door to Aadil suffers a similar misfortune.

As usual, Muzaffar is intrigued by the murders and rushes in to help.  He is brought up short by his brother-in-law, Khan Sahib, the kotwal of Delhi.  He is asked not to interfere in no uncertain terms. Muzaffar is pained by this edict and he tries not to meddle with the course of law.  But things keep happening right in his path and he cannot just look away.

Our beloved Muzaffar is now happily married to Shireen.  A partner more perfect than Shireen would be hard to find.  He should be enjoying domestic bliss in peace.  But he cannot help being in the eye of the storm.  Far from resenting his preoccupation with crime, Shireen encourages him and even helps him.

Will Muzaffar be able to figure out who is committing the spate of crimes?  Will he be able to mend fences with Khan Saheb?

The new Muzaffar Jang mystery is engrossing.  What makes it all the more interesting is the era it is set in.  This is Shah Jahan's Dilli. We are led through bazaars and darwazas that are still familiar to us.  Little bits of historical information is slipped in to make the book rich in detail.

I was glad to see all the old characters here, Akram is my favorite. He is Muzaffar's cousin.  He is a dandy nawab and utterly lovable. There were plenty of new characters who are equally interesting. Suraj Bhan, Aadil's clerk is one.  Ameena bibi, the servant of the family that lives next door to Aadil, is another.  Then there is Nilofer Begum.  Is she just the wife of a merchant or something more?

There were just two little bumps in the story.  The author pauses a couple of times to put in a historical detail.  When the story is trotting along at a quick pace, a pause for a historical detail trips up the narrative.  

The story moves at a brisk pace.  The detailing is magnificent.  I just love Muzaffar Jang and cannot have enough of him.  I am already waiting eagerly for the next.

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