Monday, June 25, 2012

The Taj Conspiracy by Manreet S. Someshwar - A Review

The genius in the under privileged world does not innovate; he transgresses.

I am a huge fan of Dan Brown and his ability to weave a credible conspiracy out of what we know as established facts and conventions.

I am an ardent Robert Ludlum follower, and am particularly fascinated by his skill at creating parallel tracks which converge in an unanticipated manner, their length often spanning more than just a single book.

And now, I have not only become a fan, but am positively smitten with the author of The Taj Conspiracy - Manreet Sodhi Someshwar - who has churned out an unbelievable piece of work, which combines the above two styles with finesse, yet lending this book a distinct identity of its own.

The Taj Conspiracy - It is an imposing, expectation-rich and speculation-rich title for a book. Undoubtedly, the idea of the narrative, as would have been conceived in the mind of the author was ambitious, to say the least. The plot, understood simply by the title, builds upon a conspiracy which is being planned around the most iconic of Indian monuments- The Taj Mahal. 

There are legends and myths and secrets associated with any and every piece of art which has a haloed reputation akin to that of the Taj Mahal. However, the stories and facts around this great offering of love made by Shah Jahaan to the world had so many unknown aspects to it, so profound in magnitude that they engender disbelief at the first reading, was something I honestly did not, ever, expect. The Taj Conspiracy, as a complete literary piece, investigates those lesser known facets of the Taj, weaving them into a rich crime fiction, which lends you thrill with each page you turn.

The protagonist of the book is Mehrunisa Khosa, a renaissance art expert, who is herself is a hybrid of Persian and Punjabi heritage (on her mother and father's side respectively). She is keenly interested in the history and exploration of the Taj, a passion which was lent to her by her Godfather - Professor Kaul - who himself is a historian considered to be the final authority on the Taj and facts related to it. The conspiracy around the Taj enters into motion when Mehrunisa discovers the corpse of the Taj supervisor inside its inner chamber and along with some changes in the Quranic calligraphy on Queen Mumtaz's tomb. While she smells trouble, SSP Raghav from the Agra Police and R. P. Singh from the CBI enter the picture to unravel the mystery surrounding the Taj and the potential threats to it from disturbance seeking, fundamentalist elements. A faceless mercenary, on a mission to give shape to this conspiracy, who navigates ahead in his plans with a brute zeal, keeps adding profound changes and chilling episodes to the storyline. He is the single character, perhaps, who will keep you on the edge and haunt you in  your dreams if you've read this book just before retiring to bed.

The Taj Conspiracy is a creative exercise on the part of the author, one that has been built upon a body of extensive research which Manreet must have undertaken to come out with such convincing and precise description of the Taj. Anyone familiar with the name of Professor P. N. Oak, famous for trying to rewrite history from the Hinducentric perspective, would be aware of the modern legends around the Taj, those which claim with conviction that Taj was originally a Shiva Temple (and so was, they claim, the Kaaba). It is one of these modern legends that this book is based upon. I can guarantee, that if you are a reader who has even the minimum interest in Indian history, this book will be a treat for you. The language of the book is both, instructive at places, and casual and colloquial at others. Manreet has a style of writing which will make you admire her - I do! In this book, she has constructed her character, her sub plots and parallel narratives with perfection.

The book moves ahead at a brisk pace, and is a definite page turner. The guesswork can continue, but you will mostly find yourself appalled at what you discover after hopping from one chapter to the next. Displaying crude and refined sensibilities both, halfway through the book you will realize why the living legend, Khushwant Singh himself has hailed Manreet as an author of tremendous promise. I am already looking forward to more books by her, especially the ones which come out as a part of the trilogy beginning with The Taj Conspiracy. It is, undoubtedly, the best crime fiction I have read by an Indian author and by a lady author too. My verdict - 4 stars on 5, and lots of admiration for the package deal this book has turned out to be.

A Long Post Script
I cannot help but make a mention of my rendezvous with Manreet, which took place a few weeks back in Punjab Grill, Select City Walk, Saket. Seated in the plush ambiance of the restaurant, with a very friendly and prim staff doling out insanely delicious delicacies to us, a few bloggers from Delhi were given the opportunity to interact with Manreet personally and get to know her and the book better. I cannot put into words the kind of impact Manreet left on me, a young blogger aspiring to make it rich in the writing world someday. Hearing from her anecdotes about Gulzaar Saab, Khushwant Singh and her book was a more than fantastic experience.
I would not miss an opportunity to thank Shalini, Nirvana and Mansi for considering me worthy enough for being invited to a gathering comprising of some very august names. That author's meet is not a day I would forget. The Taj Conspiracy is not a book I will not recommend to anyone who comes to me for a good-book advice.
At Punjab Grill. From left- Myself, Maryann, Shalini and Manreet. (Photo credits - Arcopol Chaudhury)


  1. it sounds a great read,moreover since u compared it with Dan brown and Robert ludlum novels and the synopsis u gave is compelling..definitely going to lay my hand on one of these..great review..:)

    1. Thanks! It is a great book written by a great person. Don't keep the expectations too high. That is the best way to enjoy a book :)

  2. I had heard a lot about this book. Now, after reading your review I feel I must read it. If writer of the book is as good as Saumya "the blogger",I am sure will be a good read . After reading past few review on your blog, I believe you miser in giving stars, hence if you giving it 4/5 stars, it must be an awesome read.

    1. Aah! You flatter me a lot. Even if I could write half as well as Manreet, I would be proud of myself. She is fab! And this book is strongly recommended by me :)