This is not a book about many deaths that have taken place in Kashmir due to unrest in past 25 years. This book is about mysterious deaths of British secret agents just before India gained Independence in 1945. I have been a big fan of M. M. Kaye for a long time. I have already written about “The Far Pavilions” and “Shadow of the Moon” earlier. She has also written many of these thriller books about mysterious deaths and subsequent unravelling of the plot created in several places where she had spent time during her life.
“Death in Kashmir” is a story that takes place in British era when world war II had just ended and Englishmen had decided to leave India. The story is written from the perspective of Miss Sarah Parrish who is taking a ski holiday in Kashmir. Two women in that group die in mysterious circumstances but one of them shared a secret with Sarah before she was murdered. Both these women were British secret agents trying to find the root of strange robberies and other mysterious happenings in the valley. In the end Sarah is able to get to the root of these murders as well as the conspiracy of making Kashmir a communist state with the help of Russia. She also ends up finding love in the story.
I have liked the style of Kaye and in this case I was intrigued by the background that was set in pre-independence India and in Kashmir. Even though the book is a bit slow and not as sharp as some of her later books, I enjoyed reading this book. I got to know some interesting facts as well. The idea of houseboats was started by British who were not allowed by king of Kashmir to buy land, so they bought and created houseboats for their vacation homes. I do not know whether the idea about communist overtake of Kashmir is complete fiction or whether there was indeed something happening at that time. I am going to look for other murder mysteries by her as well.
After “The Far Pavillions” from M. M. Kaye, I had read some of her other mystery novels primarily related to murders in African countries. I was searching for “Shadow of the Moon” for a long time but did not find it anywhere. Finally I was able to read it last year. The theme of this book and “The Far Pavillions” is similar in many aspects but it does not bind you as much as the story of Ashton and Princess Juli.
This is a story set during Indian War of Independence of 1857 from British-Raj. Captain Alex Randall is escorting Winter de Ballesteros from England to India as she is set to marry his boss but he ends up falling in love with her. How their love prospers in the backdrop of Indian revolt and war and how they manage to escape alive and eventually find their true love is the story of “Shadow of the Moon”.
As usual, Kaye has portrayed her characters very well and she is able to show the sensitivity of situation during that time. Britishers were ruling India and at personal level they had very good relationship with Indians but at the same time, there was tension as is bound to happen between rulers and ruled. Finally, that tension erupted into full war and changed the relationship completely. For “Winter” who was born in India and who considered India to be her homeland, this was very difficult to digest.
The story does tend to get stretched and boring at times but still it is a great book to read. It tells you a lot about the clash of cultures that happened in India at that time.
I read this book many years ago on a recommendation from a friend. Before that I had not heard about the author or the book. When I saw the size of the book, I was not sure whether I will end up reading such a fat book. Before this book, I had kept “War and Peace” with me without reading for many years. But I will write about that experience some other time. “The far pavilions” is not a book that you want to put down once you start reading it. It was one of those books that really enhanced my interest in genre of “fictional history”.
The book is set in late nineteenth century in the period after 1857 war of Indian Independence and culminating in Second Anglo Afghan war by the end of century. I had not known much about that period of history and I got to know lot of things through this book. The character of Ashton is so well created that it feels very real, but that is one character which is completely fictional in the book. While reading the book, I could actually imagine each and every scene mentioned in my mind. The way small kingdoms worked, the way huge marriage processions went from one part of the country to another, war with Afghans, simple traits of house servants, the way Britishers interacted with Indians is so well described that at no point you feel that image is being exaggerated for the narrative.
Of course, another highlight of the movie is the love story that develops between Ashton and Anjuli and how they meet after a gap of so many years. How Anjuli really suffers at the hands of her sister and how Ashton finally rescues her. The scene of sati that is described in the book really scared me giving me goosebumps.
Sometime back I found the movie adaptation of this book. I think it would have been better to assume that movie never existed. Not only it is a very badly mad movie, it really spoils the narrative of the book.
Anybody wanting to get a feel of that time of Indian history or just looking for a wild romantic journey should definitely read this book.