It’s the spring of 1969, and Lakshmi, now married to Dr. Jay Kumar, directs the Healing Garden in Shimla. Malik has finished his private school education. At twenty, he has just met a young woman named Nimmi when he leaves to apprentice at the Facilities Office of the Jaipur Royal Palace. Their latest project: a state-of-the-art cinema.
Malik soon finds that not much has changed as he navigates the Pink City of his childhood. Power and money still move seamlessly among the wealthy class, and favors flow from Jaipur’s Royal Palace, but only if certain secrets remain buried. When the cinema’s balcony tragically collapses on opening night, blame is placed where it is convenient. But Malik suspects something far darker and sets out to uncover the truth. As a former street child, he always knew to keep his own counsel; it’s a lesson that will serve him as he untangles a web of lies.
In New York Times bestselling author Alka Joshi’s intriguing new novel, henna artist Lakshmi arranges for her protégé, Malik, to intern at the Jaipur Palace in this tale rich in character, atmosphere, and lavish storytelling.
“Indian food is bold, colorful, bursting with aromas and flavors. What better way to enrich a plot and show character development than to infuse a story with one of the boldest, most beloved cuisines on earth?”
― Alka Joshi, The Secret Keeper of Jaipur
I am breezing through that trilogy! I had barely finished the Henna Artist that I downloaded the Secret Keeper of Jaipur!
It begins to feel like a family saga throughout time and I love it, even better as it has a found family vibe.
Alka Joshi’s writing is still so engaging and she made me see and live in the 1960’s India! That what I love most about that’s series I think: the compelling and vivid writing!
This second instalment is told from three point of view and has three narrators, all perfect for the character they are narrating.
-Malik. You remember the street child aged eight in The Henna Artist? He was following Lakshmi everywhere, being incredibly smart at negotiating prices and finding the best deals. Now he is a grown up young man of twenty and has finished his education at a private college, financed by Samir.
It was not easy at the beginning as he was not from the same background as the other kids but with time and being the helpful and resourceful character that he is, he was accepted among his peers.
Now with fine clothes, a watch, great shoes, he has been sent by Lakshmi to Jaipur to learn as an apprentice at the Facilities Office.
When a brand new theater financed by the palace collapses on the opening night, Malik immediately feels that something is amiss. That theater has been built by the Singh enterprises, Ravi having joined his father Samir under the supervision of Manu. A scapegoat is needed and the blame falls on Manu, Lakshmi’s friend.. Only…Malik is convinced that the guilt lies elsewhere and intends on uncovering the truth.
She is a new character in the story. Coming from an Himalayan tribe living on sheep and goats, she left her tribe after her husband died, falling into a ravine. She just gave birth to her second child after the accident and she was determined to give her children a brighter and safer future.
“After Dev died in the gorge, I’d became adamant that my children would never suffer the same fate, migrating back and forth with the tribe through the mountains, toes lost to frostbite, the threat of death always only a few paces away.”
She sets foot in Shimla, where Lakshmi and doctor Kumar live, selling flowers on the market.
When Malik sees the young widow with her two children he is instantly smitten. But after he’s been sent to Jaipur, Nimmi resents Lakshmi for separating them. She guesses that Lakshmi would prefer another bride for Malik. Someone who can read and is more sophisticated. When something terrible happens in the mountain, endangering Nimmi and her children, she’ll work with Lakshmi to protect her beloved ones.
We are now with a Lakshmi in her forties. Lakshmi is a strong and resilient woman that I loved following from the first sentences! She is living in Shimla and is now married to kind Dr Jay Kumar. These two have a warm kind of love and that made me so happy to see that she had finally found her home and her happiness.
In Malik’s absence, she’ll rush to help Nimmi with a dangerous situation, learning to know and trust the young widow. But when the theater collapses in Jaipur, Lakshmi will take the first train to go help Malik find who the real responsible is, trying to save her friends in the process.
That story has a faster pace than the Henna Artist but was as fascinating as the first. We now know how Jaipur elite society works and how to best “duel” with them. I guessed an important part of the mystery early on but that didn’t bother me as what was interesting was to see how Malik and Lakshmi would work to find a solution.
If you loved the Henna Artist, you’ll love this one as well.
I have already downloaded the last book of the trilogy!
Thanks for reading.