Book Review: ‘Murder at the Mushaira’ by Raza Mir

About the author

Raza Mir’s ‘Murder at the Mushaira’ is not his first book and the author is almost an expert in writing novels and various other books like Ghalib: A Thousand Desires, The Taste of Words: An Introduction to Urdu. But ‘Murder at the Mushaira’ is most certainly his ‘magnum opus. Each and every page of this novel is worth reading and re-reading. There is no denying or any dilemma in mind because we can see the years of effort and intense research that must have gone into this exquisite work of art by Raza Mir. The fact jumps out at the reader as one is compelled to halt, ponder, smile and sigh at the careful selection of words that create a vivid, elaborate and exuberant imagery of the then Shahjahanabad, amid the rising tensions, chaos and tumult of the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny.

So, the story of this historical fiction by Raza Mir, set against the backdrop of the revolt of 1857.. India stands on the brink of war. Everywhere in its cities, towns, and villages, rebels and revolutionaries are massing to overthrow the ruthless and corrupt British East India Company which has taken over the country and laid it to waste. In Delhi, the capital, even as the plot to get rid of the hated foreigners gathers intensity, the busy social life of the city hums along. Nautch girls entertain clients, nawabs host mushairas or poetry soirees in which the finest poets of the realm congregate to recite their latest verse and intrigue, the wealthy roister in magnificent havelis, and the drinking dens of the city continue to pack in customers.

One morning, Kallu, a retainer at a Delhi haveli, cleaning up after a grand mushaira, discovers a poet stabbed to death with a polished agate dagger. The poet was the nobleman. Gruesome as it is, the murder appears to be a fairly run of the mill crime until anxious officials of the East India Company make it a matter of the highest priority.

Instructions are issued for the murderer to be found and arrested immediately. But who is the killer? The dead man had many enemies, and the investigating officer Kirorimal Chainsukh soon discovers there are dozens of suspects, an equal number of motives, and waves of secrets and lies that threaten to overwhelm him. As the pressure on him to solve the crime increases, Chainsukh turns to Mirza Ghalib, poet laureate and amateur detective, for help.

Ghalib’s tools are his formidable intelligence, intimate knowledge of the machinations of Delhi high society, ferocious curiosity, and reliance on the new science of forensics that his friend the scientist Master Ramachandra has introduced him to. As Ghalib begins to collect evidence and dig into the case, he uncovers an ever-widening list of suspects, and a sinister conspiracy that involves many of Delhi’s most important men and women. By the time you think you have caught up to puzzle, it’s already fades away. The narrative of conspiracy entwines with myriads of secret and lies, entertaining and believable tale.  

Murder at the Mushaira is at once a brilliantly constructed murder mystery and the finest historical novel by an Indian author in recent times. One can judge the novel by its cover, a real pristine beauty so dramatic and mysterious at the same time. I genuinely suggest you to pick this phenomenal novel read it because it would be an intoxicating experience for you. I loved this book to eternity and beyond. Must Recommend!!!

Categories: Book Review, Literature