The maharaja of Rajpore must save the reputation of King George V by solving the bizarre murder of a dancing girl. What mad adventure!
India, 1911. Maharaja Sikander Singh is bored with his royal duties and singularly unimpressed by British culture. That’s rather awkward, as a royal visit is imminent. Campbell and Munro, a pair of breathless British officers, arrive to snap him out of his ennui and take him to the durbar, a royal court, where he encounters his old school friend Malik Umar Hayat Khan, now an unctuous social climber working as assistant to Lord Hardinge, British Viceroy in India. Tension fills the air as Malik reveals a corpse hanging not far from a picture of Queen Victoria in the king’s private atelier. The victim is a young nautch girl. After Sikander incisively explains that suicide is highly unlikely and impresses the assembled with his investigative deductions, the Brits implore him to solve the murder with the utmost discretion, for the sake of the empire. Malik is not the ideal sidekick, but the situation provides no viable alternative. (Campbell and Munro are dispatched when George V refuses to ride an elephant.) The suspects include an imperious maharaja, a pair of rival generals nursing a decades-old feud, and a power-hungry Kashmir regent who speaks in parables.
The middle volume in Gaind’s Maharaja Mystery trilogy (A Very Pukka Murder, 2016) is both an homage to vintage British whodunits of the 1930s and a wry comedy of manners.