by Cynthia Chow
Details on how to win a copy of Pirate Vishnu at the end of this review.
“History often feels more real to me than the present. You can understand things about the past that he present hides from you.”
After some incredible adventures in Scotland, San Francisco university historian Jaya Anand Jones was ready to settle into her normal sedate life of research and paper writing, where the most excitement stemmed from too much caffeine intake. Those rather unrealistic hopes are dashed when she meets Steven Healy, a former attorney with a treasure map and assertions that letters from Jaya’s great-grandfather could both provide clues and dash her family’s legend of her honorable relative. Jaya may have left India when she was seven and been raised mostly by her hippy-ish American father, but she has immense loyalty to her heritage, despite the jocular declarations of her friends that Jaya is the “worst Indian ever.”
While Jaya initially doubts Healy’s allegations, she is curious enough to seek out the help of a brash librarian, a rival professor up for the same tenured position, and even Lane Peters, a Berkeley professor who has previously and heroically assisted Jay; although he is now breaking her heart. The stakes are raised when Healy is murdered, Jaya mugged and the police become very interested in Jaya’s whereabouts. Even her calming escape of playing the tabla drums in Indian restaurants is upended when her best friend Sanjay, a mediocre sitar player but a stellar magician, asks that she assist him in his “Hindi Houdini” performances.
The fun in this novel comes in following Jaya as she rather impulsively journeys to India on a very fast-paced race to uncover the clues that will unlock the secrets of both the map and her family. Author Pandian vividly depicts the somehow functioning chaos of India’s traffic system and as well as creates lively and thoroughly enjoyable characters.
Alternating chapters from the diaries of Jaya’s great-grandfather Anand Selvam Paravar not only highlight the difficulty of immigrant life in 1905 San Francisco, but also slowly unfold an equally intriguing plot behind the map’s creation.
To reveal more would spoil too much of the plot, but know that the pace is unrelenting, the dialogue well-written and witty, and descriptions dynamic and fascinating. While the highly-charged relationship between Jaya and Lane blossomed in the debut Artifacts, the serial novella in Other People’s Baggage planted hints that Sanjay was becoming frustrated with his “little brother” status.
The promise of further romantic intrigue, as well as the historical lore mixed with exciting intrigue, make future installments of this series promising and for their enjoyable glimpses into distant lands and past times.
To enter to win a copy of Pirate Vishnu, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Pirate,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 24, 2014. U.S. residents only.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.