The Taj Conspiracy
One line review: Dan Brown-esque thriller set in India
tells the tale of Mehrunisa Khosa, an Indian-Persian ex-tour guide cum research assistant in the middle of a murder at the Taj Mahal. Mehr was to meet Arun Toor within the monument to discuss her research project, but stumbles across his body, instead. From there, the story moves to a conspiracy bent on destroying the Taj Mahal as we know it. Mehr now needs to save the Taj, and to do that, she needs to uncover the mastermind behind the conspiracy, with the help of two honest policemen, SSP Raghav, and ACP R P Singh, who is her love interest.
My Thoughts, Let Me Show You them
I was prepared to like this book from the moment I opened it, mostly because it featured a female protagonist written by a female author (I am shallow that way), but I will admit that it was difficult. The very first day I started reading, I had to stop because I felt bored, and I forced myself to finish it the next day only because I had to review it for BlogAdda
or they wouldn’t send me any more books.
I suspect I am in a minority here, but I dislike Dan Brown’s writing style, and it seems like the author of this book, Manreet Sodhi Someshwar took lessons from him. It seems obvious she was trying to create a franchise, with Mehrunisa Khosa as the Indian answer to Robert Langdon. The similarities between the tropes Brown uses in his work and the ones that show up in Someshwar’s book are amazing, but more on that later.
While I liked the twist regarding the murder of Arun Toor, overall I couldn’t enjoy the book as I wanted. The chapters were too short, I think the longest one was five pages, while the shortest was one page long, and there are many such chapters.
The denouement was also weak, when it was made quite clear that Pamposh was involved in the conspiracy somehow, I expected a much better motivation other than Muslims killed my father, argh. Especially since she ran an orphanage for Muslim refugee children.
The novel makes a great deal of the duality and paradox this appears to be, but I find it hard to believe. Why did she wait so long, and if she did have to wait, why associate with the very people she hates so much?
Also, I didn’t like the inclusion of the mujahideen outfit introduced as a quite useless red herring. Within the first one third of the book (on page 40 of the Westland published book, in fact) the reader is told that the main antagonist, the killer has a mauli on his wrist, which is significant to Hindus. So why introduce the mujahideen outfit as another potential threat to the Taj unless you were planning to subvert the Hindu fundamentalist threat in some manner. I don’t like having a hundred characters or things introduced to me when they will play no part in the denouement.
On similar lines, I personally didn’t need to be told that Mehrunisa was an orphan, or the details of her parents’ deaths, or the fact that she suffers from what she calls ‘basement issues’. Seriously? You’re not going to call it nyctophobia, or even claustrophobia, it’s that she’s scared of basements?
Similarly, why does it matter to me why the two policemen decided to be honest and retain their integrity in the face of all the corruption that surrounds them, unless it ties into the story somehow? I want to give Someshwar the benefit of the doubt and assume all three characters are meant to become part of a franchise, but I still didn’t like it. When I’m reading a thriller, I don’t want to be bogged down by unnecessary facts, I want to fly along from page to page in a desperate rush to know what happens next.
Which brings me to the main reason I couldn’t like this book, just as I couldn’t quite get behind any of the Robert Langdon books – when I’m in the middle of a murder mystery, I want the suspense to rachet up to an unbearable level, I don’t want it to fizzle away while I am told (admittedly interesting) facts about a monument or piece of art central to the story or the scene of the moment.
And now, since I have too much time on my hands and I was once a student of science, here comes a comparative chart detailing the similarities between the Robert Langdon books and the Mehrunisa Khosa books – watch out for spoilers!
Robert Langdon series
Mehrunisa Khosa series (?)
|Tall, good looking.||Tall, willowy, good looking.|
|A scholar with an association with Italian art and culture.||A scholar with an association with Italian art and culture.|
|Suffers from claustrophobia after having been trapped in a well as a child.||Suffers from claustrophobia/alucophobia after having been trapped in a labyrinth as a child.|
|Battles a killer (main antagonist) with physical features that make him appear deformed or inhuman – the albino in ‘The Da Vinci Code’.||Battles a killer (main antagonist) with physical features that make him appear deformed or inhuman – a burn victim with his face missing.|
|Is left a clue by the murder victim in his own blood, the victim cuts himself to do so.||Is left a clue by the murder victim in his own blood, the victim cuts himself to do so.|
|Feels isolated and alone.||Feels isolated and alone due to her mixed heritage.|
Why You Should Read It
Meh. Read it if you’re one of those people who commutes to work, it’ll help pass the time. I can’t honestly recommend it to anyone looking for a ‘good’ thriller, this would be a ‘time-pass’ kind of book for me.