This debut novel was awarded the Malice Domestic Grant and was named a "Best of 2012" debut mystery novel by Suspense Magazine. It has been compared to Elizabeth Peter's Vicky Bliss mysteries. Check out my thoughts on this new adventure mystery series.
Author: Gigi Pandian
Copyright: August 2012 (Gargoyle Girl Productions) 296 pgs
Series: 1st in Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mysteries
Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy
Main Characters: Jaya Jones, young multicultural historian and professor
Setting: Modern day, San Francisco, London, rural Scotland
Obtained Through: purchased at Left Coast Crime
From the book cover we get a concise summary that I cannot improve on:
"When historian Jaya Jones receives a mysterious package containing a jewel-encrusted artifact from India, sent by her ex-lover (Rupert) the same day he died in a supposed accident in the Highlands of Scotland, she discovers the secrets of a lost Indian treasure may be hidden in a Scottish legend from the days of the British Raj. But she's not the only one on the trail..."
I would add that her apartment is broken into as an apparent attempt to steal the antique gold and ruby bracelet. Jaya teams up with Lane Peters, a graduate student and expert in Indian jewelry and they set off to discover who is after the bracelet in hopes of uncovering who probably murdered Rupert. The bracelet is only one piece from a rumored treasure thought to be non-existent. Their adventure takes them first to London for some research and then to a remote archeological dig in the Scottish highlands. Was her former boyfriend Rupert murdered? can Jaya trust Lane, who seems more interested in finding the rest of the treasure? Is there some strange undercurrent surrounding the dig and its crew?
Jaya, her mother is from India and father is American, is a refreshing multicultural character. She loves history and its significance to the present. She is impetuous (running off to England and Scotland with only a day's notice), trusting, and no pretenses. I can't tell too much about Rupert, the ex-lover without giving anything away. Lane Peters, graduate student and Indian jewelry expert, is hiding something. When his secret is revealed it gives a great dimension to his character. It seems he will be a recurring character and that is a good thing. The minor characters of Jaya's Russian landlady Nadia and her friend Sanjay, the stage magician (Hindu Houdini) and terrible sitar player, are great additions and add flavor.
It is unusual for a debut novel of a cozy to take the reader on international treks since you are establishing the various eccentric characters that will be regulars and populate the book. But this is a cozy treasure hunting series, so the reader gets a trip to London and then to the atmospheric Scottish Highlands with caves, castles, mist shrouded countryside, tales of local faeries kept alive, and eventful train rides.
It took me longer than usual to read this book. I had a lot going on distracting me and I didn't feel pulled into the story. I suspect the opening plot idea didn't grab me right away, but rather grew on me as I read. There are several good twists to the story that I find I appreciate more looking back. I was completely caught up with the climax, and the wrap up at the end left me ready for the next book. Whatever caused my slow start was gone by the end.
I have read several comparisons of this series with the Vicky Bliss books. I haven't read any of the Vicky Bliss (shocking, I know!) so I can't compare them. I can say that this first novel shows a lot of promise for historical adventures of a cozy nature. It makes history fun and interesting as an added bonus.
Ratings: Good - A fun read.
An added bonus just for fun - check out this unique bed cover with a book printed on it! Here is an Etsy seller with a story duvet cover that allows you to turn the pages even (click here.)