The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, by Vaseem Khan

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector ChopraI had picked this book up to read because, well, elephants, but then I wavered on reading it because it seemed like it might be a cozy mystery, but then I read a very complicated book that I will talk about here soon and it broke my brain and I was like, hey, I like elephants.

Do you like elephants? Do you like quasi-cozy mysteries? Do you like people making terrible life decisions that end up having no consequences? This is totally the book for you.

I like the first one, obviously, and am sometimes down with the second, so for the most part this was a pretty fun book. We meet the titular Inspector Chopra on his last day with the Mumbai police, from which he is forced to retire after a heart attack. He is all set to at least try to enjoy retirement, but a woman and her dead son — and the police force’s reticence to look into the latter — catch his attention and he decides to pretend to be an inspector for just a bit longer. Like, literally pretend to be an officer. Totally not kosher. (Is there a Hindu version of kosher?)

Meanwhile, Chopra’s uncle has left him a baby elephant, as one does, and while Chopra is hunting down leads and information and potential killers he also is trying to figure out what elephants eat and why this one is so sad and where he can send it because the homeowner’s association lady is totally shitting a brick over the elephant in the apartment complex.

Also meanwhile, Chopra’s wife is not terribly pleased with the fact that she’s seeing her husband even less after his retirement, and she’s sure he’s up to no good with some hot young ladies, and Chopra is definitely keeping a secret buuuuut it’s probably not hot young ladies. Or is it?

So, it’s pretty cute. I love the elephant, of course, and his propensity for chocolate bars, and how Chopra is totally down with taking the elephant around town with him as he investigates because that’s totally not conspicuous at all. And the mystery itself is pretty decent, with the requisite number of twists and turns to keep things interesting.

But as you may have guessed, I really dislike thing number three above, and there’s a lot of that in this book. Chopra doesn’t want to go to the actual employed cops for help with his case because they’re disinterested and also because he doesn’t want to ruin his reputation by going crazy upon retirement, which, fine. And then when things start getting legitimately dangerous, Chopra is like, I should totally get help but I’m just not gonna. Which, not fine. But don’t worry, reader, Chopra’s innate luck and his new elephant friend are apparently all he needs to escape regular danger and also certain death. Ugh.

Escaping death is important, though, as this is apparently the first in a whole series of adorable elephant mysteries, which I kind of still almost want to read because elephants, guys. Who doesn’t want a crime-fighting, butt-kicking elephant sidekick? I know I do. Perhaps things will calm down for Chopra in these future installments? I can only hope!

Recommendation: For readers with easily suspended disbelief and also elephant lovers because adorable!

Rating: 6/10

A Walk Across the Sun, by Corban Addison

A Walk Across the SunThis book… this was a weird book for me. It was a book club pick and I started it the day before the meeting (shocking, I’m sure) and I was like, eh, maybe I just won’t bother, there aren’t a lot of people on the RSVP list anyway. But then I was like, no, I should read it and show up like a good book club member, so I read the first chapter, in which two Indian girls lose their entire family in seconds to the 2004 Christmas tsunami and then get kidnapped while trying to get to safety at their school. Then I was like, man, I definitely do not want to read this book, it’s going to be super depressing. But maybe I’ll give it 50 pages? So then I read the second chapter, in which a high-powered lawyer has a depressing Christmas and then on his way home witnesses a kidnapping that his father later says might be a trafficking and also when he sees his parents admits that his wife left him following the death of their child. In case there wasn’t enough story to this story already?

At this point I was like, I’m definitely not reading this book, but maybe I’ll just check in on those kidnapped girls and see how they’re doing, and then I read the whole book in one sitting.

When I relayed this to my book club, they were like, oh, you must have loved the book! And I was like, actually, I thought it was pretty terrible.

So on the one hand, it’s definitely a page turner. I wanted to know what was going to happen to these girls, and as much as I did not care about the lawyer fellow of course he ended up involved in the case because how else was that going to work, and so it was interesting seeing the girls’ stories from the outside.

But on the other hand the writing is almost aggressively bad, with people’s eyes flashing all over the place and people making stupid remarks about lawyers and everything that happens to this lawyer being made of 100 percent pure contrivance. Like, seriously, he witnesses a kidnapping? And then gets all but fired from his job? And then takes his forced pro bono leave and goes to India to work with an anti-trafficking organization in the same city to which his estranged wife has fled from him? And then one of the trafficked girls ends up in Paris and lawyer fellow is all, well, I studied at the Sorbonne for a semester so I know Paris and will therefore go there and find this girl?

I am not usually one to complain about a plot contrivance, because otherwise how could any story happen? But in this case? Please.

My other giant problem with this book is that in the end it’s a story about a rich white American guy who goes to India to rescue girls in distress. This is not a terribly original story, and in fact there were several times where I thought maybe it wasn’t going to be this story, that the girls would do some rescuing of themselves, perhaps, but sadly it was not meant to be.

To end on a happier note, I did appreciate this book for shedding some light on a topic I’m not terribly familiar with, and the author for putting some information about how to help in his afterword. I’m not going to argue with charity and the elimination of human trafficking.

But maybe you could just skip this book and donate those dollars to some charities doing good works instead?

Recommendation: Read it if you want to or if your book club tells you to, but don’t seek it out as your next read.

Rating: 5/10