Have you been looking for a light, entertaining mystery novel to read during your lunch break or whenever you need to be swept away from your life for a little while? Gigi Pandian’s second Jaya Jones novel, Pirate Vishnu may fit the bill. It’s quick paced plot and rich locations will whisk you away to another world where life may be somewhat dangerous, but doesn’t probe the darker side of the world too deeply.
Thirty year old half-Indian historian Jaya Jones thinks that her life will get back to normal after her Scotland adventure from Gigi Pandian’s debut novel, Artifact. Her primary focus is getting her paper published, so she can better compete with her work colleague, Naveen Krishnan, for the one tenure position in her university’s history department. Then Steven Healy crashes into her life with a mysterious treasure map he claims was created by Jaya’s great-uncle, Anand Paravar, and she’s whisked into another adventure chasing a mysterious artifact that may also reveal the truth about a beloved family ancestor.
Jaya is an amazing protagonist since she is both sympathetic and flawed at the same time. I loved the little details of her personality I gleaned through the text such as her love of spicy food and bhangra music as well as the more obvious ones like Jaya’s dedication to the history of British colonization in India. I also loved that despite being extremely petite (under 5 feet tall) Jaya is capable of protecting herself; in fact, she is more capable overall than many of her male “protectors” that crop up in the story. However, at the same time Miss Jones can be willfully blind to obvious clues, so she needs her cohorts to help her focus without losing herself in the details.
The supporting cast also oozes fabulosity although I wanted to smack Lane a few times during the course of the story. Both the “villains” and “heroes” feel like fully fleshed out people, even if some of their motivations were flimsy in the end.
Anand’s story, which was slowly revealed in alternating chapters as Jaya unearthed more evidence, also drew me in, and I would happily have read more about his travels as a young man. His tale explores more serious issues such as racism, but the touch is so light that it doesn’t overpower the main plot.
I also enjoyed the flashes of Indian culture used to add depth to Jaya’s background and flesh out the setting. When the story travels to Southern India I was riveted with the descriptions although ultimately I decided that I could not handle Indian traffic without sedatives!
My only complaint with Pirate Vishnu is that the finale felt too fast and a little underdeveloped. I wanted more depth to the climax and a little more reaction from Jaya and her comrades. However, everything is still tied up even if it felt more like lemon meringue than pumpkin pie.
Pirate Vishnu is a great read for anyone interested in fun mysteries or Indian culture. It may not keep you satisfied for a long period of time, but it’s a perfect bite sized appetizer for a more complex mystery. As an added bonus, if you care about such things, this book passes the Bechdel test!
4 Spicy Samosas out of 5
This book will be published on February 11, 2014.