The sequel to The Henna Artist begins years later, placing Lakshmi and Malik in a different phase of their lives. Malik, having completed his education, has been sent back to Jaipur to learn the ways of business. However, this endeavour is made bittersweet by him having to leave behind Nimmi, a tribal woman he grew attached to in Shimla.
When Nimmi inadvertently gets involved in a smuggling racket, Lakshmi & Jay find themselves stepping in to save her and her children. Malik, on the other hand, becomes embroiled in a case of deceit that leads to the collapse of a new cinema theatre funded by the Jaipur royal family.
I think The Secret Keeper of Jaipur is much better than the first book of the series. For starters, it opens up the scenic lands of Shimla to you. I’ve always enjoyed Alka Joshi’s ability to capture the essence of a place through her writing. And this one is no different.
It’s also my first time reading about tribal communities, so I’m not sure how accurate the representation is. Nimmi’s desire to part ways with her family is something that I wish had been explored in a little more detail. Apart from that, it was a delight to read about how brave and straightforward she is, how simple and transparent her thoughts are for the most part.
In one-third of the book, she and Lakshmi aren’t on particularly good terms, and I could understand why. But, to me, it felt like that conflict was emphasized more than necessary.
Nimmi’s jealousy stems from Lakshmi still having a hold over Malik and playing a part in creating distance between them. Lakshmi, despite how much she tries to extend a helping hand, didn’t quite seem to understand Nimmi or what it would take to alleviate her concerns.
Both the incidents that are pivotal to the plot have their own flavour. I was more invested in the chapters about the collapse of the cinema theatre and the way Malik went about investigating the clues he found.
This is not to say that the gold smuggling plot point wasn’t engaging – it was. It just didn’t have that feel of a high-stakes storyline.
All in all, I wouldn’t say that this is a must-read. But it’s definitely an enjoyable read.
Note: I received an Audiobook Listening Copy of this book from Libro.fm in exchange for an honest review.