I have been suffering from a writer’s block for quite some time. Predictably, it’s a book that is helping me get out of it. And this particular book actually sucked me in. Off late, I haven’t read any book in such a short time. But with all the other engagements, I actually finished the book in about 3 days.
The book is “The Taj Conspiracy” by Manreet Sodhi Someshwar. I am registered for the Book Review Program on Blogadda and hence keep receiving alerts, as books become available for the review. When I received the alert for the book, I was intrigued.
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 waited no more, but immediately responded to the mail and declared my willingness to review the book. And soon, the book was in the mail. However, with so many things happening in the hectic, eventful life, I couldn’t turn to the book till middle of this week. But once I started, I finished it very fast.
The book opens with the a scene where Mehrunisa Khosa, a Taj Historian, stumbles upon a mutilated and unrecognizable dead body in the Taj Mahal. The dead man has made marking on his body and around him, using his own blood. The beginning is so similar to the Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. Was this going to be an indigenous copy? I started wondering. But soon, I got sucked in the book and my doubts vanished.
Later, while researching for this review, I came across this interview published in the Hindu. And it answered my curiosity about the similarity with Dan Brown’s book. In the interview, Manreet says “I was inspired by how Brown reworked an urban legend. The Taj Mahal also has many legends. I am a history buff. It is amazing that writers have not leveraged this wealth of information.”
The book then moves fast with many events that keep you engrossed. Mehrunisa discovers that the Quranic calligraphy on the tomb of Queen Mumtaz has been altered to suggest a Hindu origin of the Taj Mahal. Just as she is wondering why would someone do it, the body vanishes from the morgue. As Mehrunisa uncovers who could have altered the calligraphy and establishes contact with that person, he is killed and an attempt is made on Mehrunisa’s life itself. This strengthens her resolve to solve the mystery. The events happen very fast and you cannot keep the book down. I don’t want to be a spoilsport and reveal the secret. I strongly urge you to read the book yourself.
The characters are very well developed. Apart from Mehrunisa, there are other strong characters like SSP Raghav, the ATS officer, R. P. Singh, deputed to CBI, in charge of the Taj Conspiracy, Prof. Kaul, eminent historian and Mehrunisa’s godfather. The characters emerge as the story progresses and keep gaining depth as the narrative goes on. Manreet’s style not only keeps the intrigue in the plot, but also in her characters.
From Manreet’s site, I discover that this is the first of the Mehrunisa Trilogy. I for one am sure to read the remaining books.