The Secret Keeper of Jaipur

Readers of Alka Joshi's debut novel, The Henna Artist, fell in love with Malik, the savvy, street-child protégé of Lakshmi, the titular artist who made her living serving the upper-crust women of Jaipur. Joshi's second novel, The Secret Keeper of Jaipur, picks up Malik's and Lakshmi's stories 12 years later, as Malik (now a young man) uncovers some shady dealings at a prestigious construction firm.

Now living in Shimla, Lakshmi is happy tending to an extensive healing garden and helping her husband run his medical clinic. But she has ambitions for Malik, who owes a great deal to his "Auntie-Boss." He travels to Jaipur to apprentice at Singh-Sharma Construction (whose owners have a complicated history with Lakshmi), just as the firm unveils a state-of-the-art cinema. When the theater suffers a collapse on opening night, Malik begins to investigate. Meanwhile, Lakshmi and a new acquaintance in Shimla have stumbled onto a smuggling operation that may have links to the cinema incident.

Joshi's storytelling pulls readers into the colorful, rapidly changing world of 1960s India, where the maharanis still wield their traditional power but the newer forces of money and technology are also at play. Familiar characters and old secrets from The Henna Artist reappear, as Malik and Lakshmi wonder what to do with their new information and how to protect those they love. Joshi's second novel is an engaging story of secrets, betrayal and complicated power dynamics across class, gender and generational lines. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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