The Parsees are among the oldest, most secretive and most influential communities in the city: respected, envied and sometimes feared.
When prominent industrialist Cyrus Zorabian is murdered on holy ground, his body dumped inside a Tower of Silence—where the Parsee dead are consumed by vultures—the police dismiss it as a random killing. But his daughter is unconvinced.
Chopra, uneasy at entering this world of power and privilege, is soon plagued by doubts about the case. But murder is murder. And in Mumbai, wealth and corruption go in hand in hand, inextricably linking the lives of both high and low.
Our favourite erstwhile Inspector, Ashwin Chopra (Rtd.) is back solving crime in, Bad Day at the Vulture Club, by Vaseem Khan, that once again features his faithful sidekick, the baby elephant, Ganesha. So are Chopra’s faithful friends and family, along with Poppy his wife, championing the UNICEF cause to put pressure on the government to provide proper sanitation for All in the Poo2loo campaign—and yes, their mascot IS a large poo. We have Rangwalla, Chopra’s righthand man, chasing down leads in a perplexing case of a man accused of murder. A case that may, or may not, tie in with the case Chopra finds himself embroiled in, when the daughter of a murdered Parsee industrialist hires him to solves her father’s murder.
And, as usual, the author has Chopra and us following the clues to uncover not one crime, but several, as he follows a trail of deceit and corrupting that, once again, reaches up into the very echelons of local government and, Parsee society.
Always full of droll and witty observations on society, and what is now modern Mumbai, Vaseem Khan gives us plenty to chew on not only with the complicated tangle of leads and clues, but commentary on the state of affairs in this huge mega city and, of course, the country at large. From the desperate poverty and inequalities, to the corruption, injustice and rampant fraud to the depth of the criminal underworld’s reach into all levels of life and society.
But Chopra being Chopra, loyal and pragmatic, one of the last willing to fight for all that is decent, refusing to give in, and refusing to give up, even if that means coming face to face with death. He steadfastly turns over the rocks beneath which we know corruption hides, and does his best to bring it into the light and, in the end, justice.
As Chopra says himself, “For me, each and every case is a personal matter. It is the only way we can be sure to see things through.”
I love Khan’s stories, always done with such a light touch, featuring a great cast of well delineated characters—who really bring the plot to life with their own quirks and acerbic wit. And the dialogue, as can be expected, is dry and very droll at times, and always well observed. Giving us however brief a snapshot into life in Mumbai, without ever resorting to being over sentimental or too dark.
For me, these books just keep getting better and better, as you learn more about Chopra and his tightly knit found family, and how he interacts with people. You get to know what truly drives him: his love for his country, including all its flaws and failings. He is a man with a mission, a man who wants justice for those who have been wronged, and where ever possible, to give hope. And who doesn’t want a little hope in their lives right now?
Get a little hope in your life, and jump in and have a read of Vaseem Khan’s wonderful series, you will be glad you did.
BAD DAY AT THE VULTURE CLUB
Paperback, 384 pages
Mulholland Books, 2019