Book review: The Taj Conspiracy
Pictured above: Author of The Taj Conspiracy, Manreet Sodhi Someshwar seen here at a meet with bloggers, hosted by Westland, Blogworks and Punjab Grill.
The Taj Conspiracy begins like India’s Da Vinci Code. The supervisor of the Taj Mahal is found murdered in the tomb’s premises and the Quranic calligraphy on the tomb of Queen Mumtaz altered to suggest that the monument actually has a Hindu origin.
As the protagonist Mehrunisa Khosa, a Mughal scholar, finds herself in the centre of an investigation into the murder, she also stumbles upon a conspiracy by right-wing Hindu extremists to establish the Taj as a Shiva temple, rather than Shah Jahan’s monument of love.
Author Manreet Sodhi Someshwar’s story packs in a punch by merging history, murder, conspiracy into an engaging tale that fascinates as much as it intrigues. Written over a period of five years, her research into Mughal history, mythology and the British Raj, appears meticulous. She acquaints us with various urban legends about the Taj Mahal – some verified by the tourist guides who take you on a tour of the monument when you visit – and some which make you question what you’ve read in your history textbooks.
If you’ve visited the Taj Mahal, you are bound to be hooked. I did, albeit recently, and I was equally arrested by The Taj Conspiracy’s narrative where a set of characters works towards destroying this glorious heritage, and there’s Mehrunisa, inspector RP Singh, SSP Raghav who try to get to the bottom of this whodunit.
The author is adept at sketching interesting characters and keeps the proceedings gripping with a twists and turns at regular intervals.
But a murder mystery must have a satisfactory conclusion, and this one unfortunately doesn’t. The climax – although tense - is a major letdown. I cringed when the behrupiya was revealed (“What bullshit!”, yes that’s what I said out loud) and the character’s motivations weren’t convincing at all. Gimmicky, that’s what it turned out to be. It’s a pity that a story with such an ambitious and believable build-up, melted into a puddle of disappointment.
I’d still recommend you read it. It’s got a horrible cover, but the book is a fairly enjoyable ride, where the author merges history, crime and contemporary Indian politics. It’s the resolution of the murder mystery that didn’t work for me. Did it work for you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
You may want to check out author Manreet Sodhi Someshwar’s earlier works:
The Long Walk Home, published by Harper Collins India (Buy it for Rs 233)
Earning The Laundry Stripes, published by Rupa (Buy it for Rs 170)