When Inspector Ashwin Chopra inherits a baby elephant from his late uncle, he is completely taken aback. How is a man supposed to raise a moody baby elephant in the middle of the city, while living in an apartment no less?! His anxious wife, mean-spirited mother-in-law, and bull-headed landlady don't make his task any easier. To top it all off, after decades of serving as a detective on the Mumbai police force, Inspector Chopra is hanging up his hat to retire.
On his retirement day, amidst the well wishes and congratulations, Inspector Chopra witnesses a confrontation between a bereaved mother and some men on the police force. The mother insists her young son did not simply drown -- he was murdered, and the police don’t seem to care. The director set to take Inspector Chopra’s place does not seem likely to follow through with the murder investigation, and in fact, seems eager to brush it off and set it aside. So, despite the promise he made to his wife about taking it easy after retirement, Inspector Chopra does what he does best: he gets involved.
Between coaxing baby Ganesha to eat something – anything – and keeping his wife in the dark about his continued detective work, Inspector Chopra has his hands full. He is so distracted that he doesn’t realize his wife believes he’s having an affair! What was initially an investigation into a suspicious death leads him on a goose chase through the clogged, dusty streets of Mumbai, where he eventually discovers that there’s a whole lot more at stake than solving a boy’s murder. Somehow, a man Inspector Chopra thought he killed has returned from the grave, and his new line of business is shocking in its brutality and immorality. By putting his nose where it categorically doesn’t belong (at least according to his wife and his former colleagues), Inspector Chopra puts himself in grave danger. A determined, sweets-loving baby elephant may be just the sidekick he needs!
Inspector Chopra was certainly an interesting character, a man of high standards and morals. He prides himself on honesty and integrity, and that shines through in every action – mostly. While he’s sneaking out to investigate the boy’s death, and stumbling onto secrets of the criminal underground, he neglects his wife, Poppy. He thinks he’s avoiding unnecessary worry and drama by not filling her in on his daily activities and secretive phone calls, while he is really causing her quite a bit of stress and anxiety. Why do men do this?!
Though she was not the main character, I really appreciated Poppy’s point-of-view. She was a firecracker who knew her mind and knew what steps to take to get things done. Her story, while not the primary focus, was just as entertaining. While Inspector Chopra is out, presumably to see his mistress, Poppy desperately seeks ways to give him what she believes he’s always wanted; something she’s never had the ability to give: a baby. I sympathized with her situation quite a bit, and at times, wanted to shout at her to just confront him already!
Their interactions with Ganesha, their burden-turned blessing, are heart-warming. I enjoyed witnessing the growing relationships between Inspector Chopra and Ganesha, and Poppy and Ganesha. The baby elephant provides comfort to each of them, according to their needs, and just goes to show how intuitive animals really are. What a neat twist on a detective mystery to have a baby elephant as the sidekick!
The story itself, while at times a cozier, light-hearted read as Inspector Chopra navigates his newly-retired life, is juxtaposed by a darker, grittier tone, when he stumbles upon an underground criminal ring. I was pleased that I didn’t figure everything out right away, which kept me reading until the end. It’s not the most compelling murder-mystery, but it does have an old-fashioned, heart-warming quality to it, and you can’t help but wonder what adventures will surface next for Inspector Chopra and Baby Ganesha.
The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra is the perfect read for lovers of mysteries, foreign settings, and intelligent animals. Special thanks to Redhook Books for the opportunity to review the e-ARC!