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The Secret Keeper (The Henna Artist #2) by Alka Joshi, Narrated by Sneha Mathan, Ariyan Kassam & Deepa Samuel

Published June 22nd 2021 by Harlequin Audio, Mira Books

About the Book: In ‘New York Times’ best-selling 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 Lashmi now married to Dr. Jay Kumar, directs the Healing Garden in Shimla. Malik has finished his private school education. At 20, he has 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.

When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

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4 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I really enjoyed Alka Joshi’s debut novel, The Henna Artist when I listened to it last year. The Secret Keeper of Jaipur was one I was looking forward to and while I was not disappointed, I did not enjoy this one quite as much. This story follows Malik, Lakshmi’s ward as he grows and finds his own way in the world. Lakshmi is still present in this story, which I was happy about, but in a secondary character role. Lakshmi has married and she and Malik are living in Shimla, a northern village. She takes care of The Healing Garden. There is a young widow they meet in the market named Nimmi, who Malik gets involved with. When Malik leaves to apprentice at the Facilities Office of the Jaipur Royal Palace, she moves in with Lakshmi and Dr. Jay. Malik is excited to be working with those building the state of the art, palace cinema. He is somewhat dismayed that things haven’t changed since he left Jaipur, it is still corrupt and money talks. Meanwhile back in Shimla, Nimma and Lakshmi are having their own adventures.

This sequel was somewhat more adventurous, with gold smuggling and a scandal involving a collapsed theater. There was danger for many and Lakshmi must get involved to protect her friends. It is easy to get involved in this story. I enjoyed the characters very much and I never fail to learn something about the culture of another country during a different time. There were times I didn’t like Lakshmi very much, but as the story unfolds, I understood her actions. Malik is the star of this book. It was wonderful to see him grown up and making his way in the world. He was loyal, honest and caring. When the cinema balcony collapses, Malik suspects something far darker and sets out to uncover the truth. He could just let it go, but he needed to make it right. Overall, an enjoyable story about class structure, integrity, life in poor areas of India, family, loyalty and finding your way. I recommend this one to those who enjoy reading about other countries, cultures and historical fiction. Listening to The Secret Keeper of Jaipur felt like visiting old friends. I was so glad to hear Sneha Mathan’s voice again. I love the multiple narrators used for this story including Ariyan Kassam and Deepa Samuel. They bring these characters to life and make the listener feel apart of the story. I am looking forward to the final book in this trilogy. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book upon request. The rating and opinions shared are my own.