Writer Bharti Kirchner is back with her intrepid Indian-American detective in her third Maya Mallick mystery, Murder at Jaipur (Camel Press, 2023). Fans of the series know that Maya is a globe- trotting detective based in Seattle who works for a detective agency in Kolkata and solves crimes in exotic locales. Her last adventure was in the Andaman islands. In this third novel, Maya is vacationing in Kolkata when she receives a distress call from her mother. 

Maya’s mother, Uma, lives in Jaipur with her second husband, Neel Saha. Neel is a well-known jewelry assessor who was working with a wealthy entrepreneur Rana Adani to examine a precious ruby. The rare ruby had been stolen and the police had arrested Neel for the crime. Uma worried for her husband’s well-being as he was engaged in a hunger strike in jail to protest his innocence. Maya consults her boss, Sima, rallies her support for solving this crime and flies to Jaipur to meet her mother. When she arrives, she finds out that Neel is out of prison temporarily and her mother is no longer welcoming. She claims she does not need Maya’s help, refuses to spend time with her, and insists that she leave town immediately. Maya is both puzzled and hurt by her mother’s actions and decides to seek the local police chief, Mohan Dev’s help, and to stay on and solve the mystery of the missing ruby. Her assistant Hank and his girlfriend Sophie arrive in Jaipur and help her. As they follow the clues, Maya meets Rana Adani and is hired by him to solve the crime. Mixed in with the lost ruby is the mysterious disappearance and reappearance of Uma’s servant, Samir, an elite kite fight player; the murder of Bea Adani, Rana’s estranged wife, by a manja (deadly kite string); the continued mysterious behavior of Uma and Neel; and the sudden return of Maya’s ex-lover who had been kidnapped in Borneo but now was seeking reconciliation with Maya. As with any mystery novel, the crimes are solved and the plot neatly wrapped up.  

Interspersed with the twisty plot involving family drama, stolen jewels, dubious political organizations, and murder are Kirchner’s trademark descriptions of places and food. She takes us on a tour of Jaipur’s landmarks and cuisine. As always, Kirchner’s description of food is sensuous and seductive and leaves the reader craving chai, dessert, and spicy food. She introduces us to the kite fighting tradition in Jaipur and to beliefs about precious gems and their magical powers. Additionally, readers of the series are left wondering what will happen to Maya. Will she reconcile with her ex? Will her romance with Adani bloom? Where will her adventures take her next? 

This novel is engaging and entertaining. It’s exactly what a reader needs to take with them on their summer vacation to read on a plane or at the beach. 

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