Summary and book reviews of The Secret Keeper of Jaipur by Alka Joshi

The Secret Keeper of Jaipur

The Jaipur Trilogy #2

by Alka Joshi

The Secret Keeper of Jaipur by Alka Joshi X
The Secret Keeper of Jaipur by Alka Joshi
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  • Published:
    Jun 2021, 384 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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Book Summary

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.



May 1969

It's opening night of the Royal Jewel Cinema, which shines as brilliantly as a gemstone. A thousand lights twinkle in the ceiling of the immense lobby. White marble steps leading to the upper balcony reflect the glow of a hundred wall sconces. A thick crimson carpet hushes the sound of thousands of footsteps. And inside the theater: every one of the eleven hundred mohair seats is occupied. Still more people stand, lining the walls of the theater for the premiere.

This is Ravi Singh's big moment. As lead architect on the prestigious project, commissioned by the Maharani Latika of Jaipur, the Royal Jewel Cinema stands as a testament to what modern ingenuity and a Western education can create. Ravi Singh has modeled it after the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, eight thousand miles away. For this most celebrated of occasions, Ravi has arranged for the cinema house to show Jewel Thief, a film that was actually released two years ago. A few weeks ago, Ravi told me he...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Do you think Lakshmi does the right thing by asking Malik to go to Jaipur and learn the construction trade? Could she have found another way to keep Malik out of trouble?
  2. What makes Malik such a likeable character? What three things do you think a great book character needs to make readers fall in love with him/her?
  3. In what ways has Malik transformed from the grubby street urchin he used to be? Has he changed from the outside or the inside, or both?
  4. Could Nimmi have done something to keep Malik from leaving Shimla? Ultimately, do you think it was good for them to be apart? Does Nimmi learn anything about herself as a result of their separation?
  5. How are Nimmi and Lakshmi different? How are they similar?
  6. What do you think Malik learns ...
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BookBrowse Review


What made The Henna Artist so appealing was the strong, long-suffering Lakshmi, able to overcome all obstacles placed in her path with grace, fortitude and cleverness. I didn't like this version of Lakshmi as much — she's more reactionary and less self-reliant — and Nimmi often comes across as shrill and unnecessarily distrustful. The book is still certainly entertaining — it's just not at the level of The Henna Artist. The author provides enough background information (including a helpful "who's who" at the front of the book) that for the most part the novel can be read as a stand-alone work. Indeed, there's some argument to be made that one might enjoy it more without the inevitable comparisons to the earlier book. Tackling the series in order, though, will allow readers to understand the characters and their motivations better, and for that reason I'd recommend the latter approach...continued

Full Review Members Only (782 words).

(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

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.

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

Library Journal (starred review)
With lush details, a return to favorite characters, and emotional complexity, this story satisfies on every level.

Author Blurb Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris
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.

Author Blurb Christy Lefteri, award-winning author of The Beekeeper of Aleppo.
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.

Author Blurb Bryn Turnbull, bestselling author of The Woman Before Wallis
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.

Author Blurb Nancy Jooyoun Kim, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Story of Mina Lee
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.

Reader Reviews

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.

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 ...   Read More
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...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Jaipur, Rajasthan (India's "Pink City")

Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds) in Jaipur Alka Joshi's novel The Secret Keeper of Jaipur takes place in the city of Jaipur, the capital of the Indian state of Rajasthan and home to over three million people.

Founded in 1727 by Maharaja Jai Singh II, Jaipur is said to be the first completely planned city in India. The Maharaja became aware that his current capital, Amber (now named Amer, about seven miles northwest of Jaipur) could no longer support the growing population, and so he decided to build a new city to serve as the seat of his government. Following the principles of Shilpa Shastras (ancient Indian sciences of design), he worked with renowned Bengali scholar Vidyadhar Bhattacharya to meticulously plan the city's layout, including parks, canals and market areas; ...

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