Book Review

The Secret Keeper of Jaipur

The Secret Keeper of Jaipur

  • Author: Alka Joshi
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Publication Date: June 22, 2021
  • Publisher: Harlequin Audio
  • Series: The Henna Artist #2

Thank you to libro.fm for providing me with a copy of this audiobook. I am offering my honest opinion voluntarily.

CONTENT WARNING: death, homophobia

Rating: 5 out of 5.

In New York Times bestselling author Alka Joshi’s intriguing new novel, henna artist Lakshmi arranges for her protégé, Malik, to intern at the Jaipur Palace in this tale rich in character, atmosphere, and lavish storytelling.

It’s the spring of 1969, and Lakshmi, now married to Dr. Jay Kumar, directs the Healing Garden in Shimla. Malik has finished his private school education. At twenty, he has just met a young woman named Nimmi when he leaves to apprentice at the Facilities Office of the Jaipur Royal Palace. Their latest project: a state-of-the-art cinema.

Malik soon finds that not much has changed as he navigates the Pink City of his childhood. Power and money still move seamlessly among the wealthy class, and favors flow from Jaipur’s Royal Palace, but only if certain secrets remain buried. When the cinema’s balcony tragically collapses on opening night, blame is placed where it is convenient. But Malik suspects something far darker and sets out to uncover the truth. As a former street child, he always knew to keep his own counsel; it’s a lesson that will serve him as he untangles a web of lies.

I loved The Henna Artist so much, that when I saw that this sequel was available, I practically jumped on it. Let me tell you, it’s totally worth the time to read this one! And while I read the first one as a hard copy book, I thoroughly enjoyed the audiobook as well. The narrators (Sneha Mathan, Ariyan Kassam, and Deepa Samuel) brought the characters to life in such a beautifully vivid way that I never wanted the book to end. Also, I’d like to take a moment to just appreciate the gorgeous cover, The bright colors and gorgeous composition really characterize the story perfectly. 

In the first book, Alka Joshi brings these incredibly nuanced and realistic characters to life, even the side characters. But of course, Malik was the young, mischievous boy who stole my heart, and Lakshmi was the voice of reason as well as caretaker. I had gotten so attached to them that it was great to see them return as their future selves. 

Malik is now an adult, but still hasn’t fully outgrown the relationship with Lakshmi that he’s had for nearly all of his life. Even as he’s building a relationship with Nimmi, a local woman, he soon has to leave to navigate a new career path back in Jaipur, where he finds himself sucked back into an old web of secrets, lies, power, and class differences.

Lakshmi has her own hands full, uncovering a dangerous plot occurring closer to home in the foothills of the Himalayas, where she has built a happy and satisfying life. She’s struggling with learning to let Malik be an adult, and keeping the people close to her safe. 

The story was so interesting, and even though it was told from 3 different POVs (Malik, Lakshmi, and Nimmi), it never got confusing or boring. At first, it seemed like there was three vastly different stories, but as I kept listening, they ended up coming together in a way that I didn’t see coming at all. I loved how it all wove together so beautifully and seamlessly, with each character overcoming their own challenges both independently and with the help of others. The persistence, found family, and the strength of the bonds that we build were some of my favorite themes running through the story.

You can access the audiobook through libro.fm here to support local, indie bookstores.

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