The BookBrowse Review

Published June 9, 2021

ISSN: 1930-0018

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Book Jacket

The Secret Keeper of Jaipur
The Jaipur Trilogy #2
by Alka Joshi
22 Jun 2021
384 pages
Publisher: Mira
Genre: Historical Fiction
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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.

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.

"Verdict: With lush details, a return to favorite characters, and emotional complexity, this story satisfies on every level." - Library Journal, starred review

"Joshi excels at creating strong characters, the addition of Nimmi being no exception. As Lakshmi and Malik uncover the cause of the disaster, their loyalties are put to the test in this applause-worthy encore." - Booklist

"Joshi's sensuous descriptions of food, local color, and Lakshmi's art make this  gorgeous sequel to The Henna Artist worth savoring." - Publishers Weekly

"Alka Joshi returns with a triumphant follow-up to her New York Times bestselling debut... [Her] magnificent writing gives voice to the too-often silenced while telling an engaging and powerful story." - Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris

"Alka Joshi is a master story-teller. I was completely mesmerized by The Secret Keeper of Jaipur and could not put it down! It is a story of love, family, money and power, told with such poise, beauty and page-turning suspense... It touched my heart and it will stay with me for a long time." - Christy Lefteri, award-winning author of The Beekeeper of Aleppo.

"With its beautifully complex cast of characters, The Secret Keeper of Jaipur plunges readers back into the sumptuous world of The Henna Artist, where power, money, and secrets abound — and where carefully cultivated reputations balance on the knife edge of influence." - Bryn Turnbull, bestselling author of The Woman Before Wallis

"In this timeless tale of loyalty, ambition, and love, Joshi explores what it means to create and build--from architectural marvels to chosen families--in a way that not only endures but inspires." - Nancy Jooyoun Kim,  New York Times bestselling author of The Last Story of Mina Lee

Write your own review

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Bhumi Sharma
Good reviews
I'm so glad to have read this book. This book is amazing. I really love it. A book lover will surely love it. I really suggest you to read it.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by KLBoehm
Great read!
Twelve storyline years have passed since the ending of Alka Joshi‘s wonderful debut novel, The Henna Artist. This book picks up at that time, with Lakshmi still working in Shimla, now as the Director of the Lady Reading Healing Garden. She is now married to Dr. Jay Kumar, physician at the Lady Reading Hospital and Director of the Community Clinic. Her sister Radha has married her husband Pierre and moved to Paris. Her assistant Malik has graduated the prestigious Bishop Cotton School for Boys and is now an apprentice with Singh-Sharma Construction, headed by Samir Singh.

The book opens with the catastrophic collapse of the balcony on opening night at the Royal Jewel Cinema in Jaipur, constructed by Malik’s employers. An investigation is launched and Malik plays a key role in determining who is responsible. Lakshmi, supportive as always, travels 11 hours by train to Jaipur to assist Malik and ply her royal connections to help save the job and reputation of Manu Agarwal, her dear friend Kanta’s husband, who also works there.

A significant storyline is the smuggling of gold after the restrictive Gold Act is enacted in India. Malik‘s love interest, Nimmi, a recent widow with two young children, figures prominently in this storyline. Returning with significant roles are Ravi Singh and his mother Parvati, and Maharani Latika and the dowager Maharani Indira. Several new characters are also introduced.

As with The Henna Artist, this book gives the reader an informed look at the culture of India, this time including much more about Shimla which is in the Himalayas. A delightful read, full of color, fragrance, atmosphere, and suspense. The conclusion is a satisfying one.

It is not necessary to have read The Henna Artist prior to this, the second in a series of three books, because the author does an excellent job of filling in the backstory. However, reading the first book will give a more fitting introduction. Looking forward to the third book, due in 2022, which will center on Radha and her life in Paris. Highly recommended! ?

Thank you to the author and publisher for an advance reader’s copy. (Publication date: June 22, 2021).

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Betty Taylor
Captivating Story
I loved “The Henna Artist” when it came out last year, and I loved its sequel just as much, or maybe even a bit more. As I began reading it, it soon felt like a family reunion. I had come home to visit again with Lakshmi and Malik and various friends, like Maharani Indira, Manu and Kanta Agarwal, and even Madho Singh.

Just as at all family reunions, I wanted to know what everyone had been up to. Lakshmi is now living in Shimla and is married to Dr. Kumar (I saw that one coming.) Malik, just as charming as ever, has finished school and met the widow Nimmi and her two children. But Lakshmi arranges for Malik to take an apprenticeship position back in Jaipur, thus leaving Nimmi in Shimla. Malik finds that not much has changed in Jaipur - it is still all about power and money and keeping secrets. Then a tragedy strikes, and Malik is caught in the middle of it. He must make some difficult decisions in his quest to uncover the truth as to what (and who) is responsible for the tragedy.

I really love how Joshi gives the reader a glance into the lives of the various levels of society, from sheepherders and servants to royalty and the upper echelons of society. I found Nimmi to be interesting because of her cultural background. She is from a hill tribe that moves about with their flocks of sheep. Through Joshi’s descriptions, I could easily imagine the beautiful clothing and the jewels. I could almost taste the banquet of luscious Indian foods.

If you enjoy historical fiction and learning about other cultures, I highly recommend this book! But I do suggest that you read “The Henna Artist” first to get the backstory for Lakshmi and Malik. “The Henna Artist” was Lakshmi’s story and tells how Malik becomes part of her family. It also reveals Lakshmi’s relationship with her sister Radha. (I believe Book 3 will be Radha’s story.) I think there would be too many gaps in the story if you skip the first book.

Alka Joshi was born in India and raised in the U.S. since the age of nine. She has a BA from Stanford University and an MFA from California College of Arts and runs an advertising and marketing agency. She has lived in France and Italy and currently lives in Pacific Grove, California, with her husband. The Henna Artist is her first novel.

Instagram: @thealkajoshi
Facebook: alkajoshi2019
Twitter: @alkajoshi

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