Alka Joshi’s beautiful and lush new book, The Secret Keeper of Jaipur, is book #2 following last year’s wonderful debut, The Henna Artist. While this latest book serves well as a standalone, I would recommend reading book #1 first so you can get the backstories of its characters in more depth.
When the book begins, it is 1969, twelve years after the last book ended. Everyone in Jaipur is celebrating the opening of a spectacular movie house, commissioned by the palace. During its opening night, tragedy occurs as the balcony collapses. The story then goes back two months before the collapse to the town of Shimla, in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains. Lakshmi, the former henna artist, is married. Malik, her ward, is now well educated and lives with Lakshmi and husband Dr. Jay Kumar. Fearing he is susceptible to the criminal activities of the area, including gold smuggling, Lakshmi arranges for Malik to return to Jaipur, the city where he was born, to learn about the construction business. While interning, he uncovers irregularities in the construction of the new Royal Jewel Cinema.
At the beginning of the book, the author provides a list of all the characters and their descriptions. It seemed a daunting task to keep track of so many people. But the talented Joshi has written such an engaging book that every one of these fascinating characters fell perfectly into place. The Secret Keeper of Jaipur offers a fascinating look into so many different types of people from different levels of society in India - from the royal family to the tribal people who live in the mountains tending sheep. Lakshmi continues to be a pillar of strength to all and a very wise woman. Malik is an endearing character. He was an orphan, a street urchin and in this book, a responsible young man discovering himself and where he fits in given his humble beginnings.
I highly recommend getting immersed in the writing of Alka Joshi. She has revealed that a third and final book in the series is forthcoming. Great news!
Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Publication Date: June 22, 2021.
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