Sunday, 10 January 2016

Book review: The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan

On the day he retires two things happen to Inspector Chopra. The first is that a young man is found dead, his death dismissed as an accident by Chopra's colleague. The second is a little more unusual - Chopra gets home to find he has inherited a baby elephant from his uncle. And so begins The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan.

A lively, dark novel, The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra is hugely fun to read and full of charm. At its centre is a murder mystery, with Chopra finding himself in more and more danger as he gets closer and closer to the truth. But it's not the crime element, as brilliantly executed as it is, that makes this novel such a joy. It's the way Khan explores what a man does with his life after the thing that takes up most of his time - work - is no longer taking up that time. Khan shows the fear Chopra has of going from respected police inspector to irrelevant old man, and he does it with humour as well as sympathy.

Part of the humour comes, of course, from Chopra's relationship with the baby elephant - Ganesha. But Ganesha is no comic sidekick. Instead, the relationship between Chopra and Ganesha is touching, and the two teach each other things - the elephant teaches Chopra he is still needed and valuable, and Chopra shows Ganesha how to trust and love. It sounds strange to be talking about a man and an elephant, but the relationship is as strong as any detective and their human sidekick.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Book review: Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

Sofia Khan has had it with men. She thought she'd found the one, but it turned out he wanted her to move in with his parents (sort of, next door but with a hole connecting the two houses) after they got married, so now Sofia has given up. Or she thinks she has - when she accidentally pitches a book about Muslim dating to her boss, Sofia finds herself having to examine love, life, family, and go on a few weird dates all in the name of research.

Ayisha Malik's Sofia Khan is Not Obliged is brilliantly funny, and put me immediately in mind of Bridget Jones, albeit a more up-to-date version with a Muslim protagonist. Malik's book is full of fun, and if I wasn't smiling with Sofia, I was usually laughing with her. The first truly laugh out loud moment came just pages in, when Sofia, after being called a terrorist by a Tube passenger, leans out the doors to shout: "Terrorists don't wear vintage shoes, you ignorant wanker!" It's the kind of comeback that is both clever and a bit silly, and Sofia Khan is Not Obliged strikes a balance for its protagonist between both those qualities.


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