It’s mystery time! I’ve been doing pretty good on my whole ‘read more mysteries’ thing that I started last year. I will admit I’m keeping pretty much in the same lane with slightly cozy, well known series. I am really enjoying this though so I feel no shame. I also try to keep them as diverse as I can and I think I can also say I’m succeeding there as I’ve learned more about different cities in the world than I would have previously. I have two to look at now, both of which I really liked!
The second in the Inspector Darko Dawson series, Children of the Street by Kwei Quartey, can be read on it’s own. It has only the slightest of ties to it’s predecessor so you won’t miss much of anything going into this. Inspector Dawson is called in when a body is found floating with fingers missing and one large stab wound in the back. The case becomes a back and forth as more bodies pile up, each one mutilated in a different way. They all share that same stab wound in the back – the one thing tying them together. The Inspector becomes embroiled in the lives of street children, kids who are either orphaned or forced out of their homes. Either their parents can’t feed them, won’t feed them, or demand the make money for the family at young ages. It’s a close look at their lives and the risks that befall them.
As a mystery – holding the heartstrings still – I really enjoyed this. I spent a good chunk of the time bouncing between who I thought could be behind the murders. I wasn’t far off base but of course overlooked a very specific moment that would have shown me the truth. Kwei Quartey did a great job of concealing his killer, I figured out the crime at about the same moment as it seems Darko did. We also see a bit more of the story of Darko’s son. Overall I think it was a stronger book than the first one. Not only do we get a better mystery, but we see a bit more of the character of Darko. I did notice that Darko’s addiction to ‘wee’ was nearly shoved to the side, almost as if Mr. Quartey is attempting to write it out. It only comes into play strongly at one point – though to be fair I think the use of it as a tension building tool was clever. Additionally the somewhat ‘supernatural’ ability of the Inspector to feel out lies was nearly invisible. Instead we see him doing things like tracking eye movements and body language.
As I said, I think this one can be read on it’s own but if you enjoyed the first in the series definitely continue on. You can see the ways that the series is going to change and develop (hopefully) and the mysteries and settings continue to be strong and vivid. Definitely one I recommend.
I somehow managed to pick up another mystery that focused in on children, orphans especially. The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan has been sitting on my TBR for what feels like years at this point. This is a very cozy style mystery set in Mumbai about a police officer who within the first few pages retires from his position. On his last day at work he sees the body of a young man, and assures the mother of the child that it will be investigated. When he leaves however he is followed by this body. The fact that a supervisor did not want an autopsy ordered and the fact that the woman’s parting statement begins to ring truer and truer leads Inspector Chopra to begin to investigate on his own. Meanwhile we also follow as he inherits a baby elephant and how that upsets his life. We also get insights into his wife and what she thinks of the strange behavior of her husband. This all adds up to make this a very cozy read. It was like a cozier version of Children of the Street, but I wasn’t hating that.
I was definitely surprised at turns in this, though I did see a few things coming and it did utilize some classic mystery tropes I couldn’t fault it too badly for its story. It was engaging and readable. The setting and character helped bring it to life. I felt like Mumbai was a breathing character and I loved the little peeks and descriptions we get of the place. I can’t wait to see more of what he shows us. I will say the elephant, though fun, seemed like an odd addition in. It played a role, sure, but it almost felt like a tool of the author to keep anything truly terrible from happening. We’ll have to wait and see what happens with the little guy in the next few stories. I anticipate him growing up, but I’m not sure if the behavior he exhibited in this story can continue sensibly in the next.
Again, I’d recommend this especially if you like lighter and cozy reads set in places like Mumbai. The setting is great, and there were times where I was smiling and laughing as ‘antics’ were had by the Inspector’s wife. It was a super fast read as well, one I blew through in a day. Give it a shot if it interests you.