Goodreads blurb: Mughal scholar Mehrunisa Khosa stumbles on a conspiracy to destroy the Taj Mahal when she discovers the murder of the Taj supervisor, and the Quranic calligraphy on the tomb of Queen Mumtaz altered to suggest a Hindu origin of the Taj Mahal.
That urban legend had always existed. Now, though, someone was conspiring to make it come true. In the case of the famed marble monument, all was not on the surface. A vast labyrinth ran underneath closed to visitors where Mehrunisa was trapped once.
In a series of suspenseful twists and turns, the action traverses from the serene splendor of Taj Mahal to the virulent warrens of Taj Ganj, from intrigue-laden corridors of Delhi to snowy Himalayan hideouts..
As a right-wing Hindu party ratchets up its communal agenda and Islamic militants plot a terror attack, in the dark corners of his devious mind a behrupiya, a shape-shifter, is conniving to divide the nation in two. To save the Taj Mahal, Mehrunisa must overcome a prejudiced police and battle her inner demons as she sifts the multiple strands that lead to the conspirator.
I am more than sure that most of us would have actually heard about or read about the ‘real’ Taj conspiracy, the one in which this monument is supposed to be a Shiva temple, Tejo Mahalaya upon which Shah Jahan constructed the mausoleum to his beloved wife, Mumtaz. Now this book takes the urban legend and in the words of one of my favorite bloggers, ‘twisted’ it a little and authored an entire thriller around this idea.
The main protagonist Mehrunisa (Mehr) is someone who has always struggled with her mixed Indian Persian parentage and in the words of the author, a ‘mongrel’ who doesn’t belong either here or anywhere else. Her only anchor, only mooring, which keeps her tied to her sanity is her uncle, famed Taj historian Prof Kaul, and her only calling, assisting him in an extensive study of the monument.
When she gets embroiled in the murder of the caretaker of the Taj Mahal, Arun Toor, her life takes a turn and the events that follow thereafter form the plot of this page-turner. With her uncle rapidly descending into a medical situation where his memory is rapidly deteriorating, Mehr has to race against the clock against an unknown villain who funnily enough seemed to have left behind some clues to the motives behind his crime.
When the leader of the principal opposition party seems to be implicated with the crime, this brings in RP Singh from the CBI who is asked to take charge of the situation. Assisted with the able SSP Raghav from the Agra police, the trio of Mehr and the cops get around to sorting out the situation and in the process solving the Taj Conspiracy.
Starting off as an unintentional party to the proceedings, Mehr grows stronger and stronger with each passing event and the bizarre unexplained events that occur only seem to make her resolve to seek out the truth stronger. Her mixed parentage, eclectic childhood filled with the best of both worlds, her extensive travels around the world and her interest in Mughal history seems to put her in an uniquely strong position to unravel and decipher the various clues they stumble upon in the course of their investigation.
What I liked the best about the book is the fact that it allows the reader to gently absorb all the information regarding the various stories (both true and untrue) about the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan and various other relevant Mughal contemporaries. The author has done her research well and acknowledges the contributions of various Taj researchers and other scholars in the field in the Acknowledgements section.
And the pacing of the story, especially the last 100 pages when the action really picks up steam and starts chugging along fast is well done. At no point in time during the book did I feel that the narrative was lagging or slowing down at all, while being just about right to absorb the happenings without feeling too rushed about it.
The fact that Mehrunisa has made an appearance in a subsequent book, The Hunt for Kohinoor soon after means that there are more than enough clues in this book hinting at the sequel and there are a few questions from her past which will hopefully get resolved in the second and the third book of the trilogy.
For sure, those are two books which will find their way to my reading list sometime soon.
|Name||The Taj Conspiracy|
|Author/s||Manreet Sodhi Someshwar|