sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

November 16, 2016

into the stacks: june 2016, part 1
posted by soe 1:25 am

I always read more in the summer, so I’ll break up the reading from those months into a couple posts, because no one has the patience to read my thoughts on nine books in one go. (Or, more accurately, I don’t have the patience to post them all at once.)

So here are the first couple books I read during June (it was supposed to be four, but I’ve been stuck on the latter two for a month now, so it’s time to just get something up):

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, by Vaseem Khan

On the day Inspector Chopra retires from the Mumbai police force, he discovers his favorite uncle has died, leaving him the titular bequest, which turns out to be a baby elephant. But before we can get to the pachyderm (which is going to be a problem since he and his wife live in a middle-class high-rise with a rather ornery woman heading up the condo board), we must first deal with the workplace farewell. Middle-aged Inspector Chopra loves his job. He’s very good at his job. He doesn’t want to leave his job. But he’s had some heart trouble, and between pressures from his wife and the Indian bureaucracy, he’s been forced to leave the force early. He has instructions his final day is meant to be strictly a formality; his jurisdiction as head of his station has already passed onto another, who’ll arrive the following day. But when a young man from a lower-class section of town dies and his mother comes in to complain that it’s been dismissed as suicide when her son couldn’t possibly have been suicidal, Chopra doesn’t have the heart to show her the door. He quietly orders some extra tests to be conducted on the body, with the plan he’ll return later in the week to pass on the information to his successor. But when that man turns out to be a drunk and when the autopsy turns up some abnormalities and when sitting around the apartment with his wife and mother-in-law turns out not to be any fun, Chopra decides to split his time between unofficially investigating the young man’s death and figuring out what to do with a baby elephant who is literally wasting away while chained up on the common lawn of his building. He’ll spend his time consulting vets and zookeepers and low-lifes alike while trying to keep all his activities from his loving wife.

Written by an Englishman who spent ten years working in India, the story is a little slower than I would have liked, but still ultimately was an enjoyable tale. Chopra and his wife (from whose perspective we get about a third of the story) are good characters, and the end of the book suggests this could become an ongoing series. If you like Tarquin Hall’s Vish Puri detective series, I’d suggest giving this a try, as well. If anyone has any recommendations for contemporary Indian detective series written by actual Indians, I’d be eager to check them out.

Pages: 314. Library copy.

Baba Yaga’s Assistant, by Marika McCoola with illustrations by Emily Carroll

In this graphic novel, a motherless teenager whose father is getting remarried to a woman with an obnoxious little girl of her own decides to answer the help wanted ad Baba Yaga places in the newspaper seeking a new assistant. Having grown up on her grandmother’s detailed stories about Baba Yaga and how the witch could be outsmarted, Masha is prepared to move to the woods and use her wits to gain access to the witch’s walking home. But when one of Baba Yaga’s instructions involves cooking and children and one of those kids turns out to be her new step-sister, well, Masha is going to have to get even more creative.

I wanted to like this book more, although I can’t pinpoint where, exactly, it fell flat for me. Aimed at a middle-grade audience, it’ll likely appeal to anyone with an interest in Russian/Slavic lore.

Pages: 132. Library copy.

Stay tuned for the next installment of June’s reads, hopefully coming soon to a blog near you!

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