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August 04 , 2008

The Englishman's Cameo


A poisoned paan, a non-government issue arrow and the cameo of a mysterious Englishman...Muzaffar Jang is that rare creature in Mughal Emperor Shahjahan’s Dilli – an aristocrat with friends in low places. One of whom, Faisal, stands accused of murder. When the body of Mirza Murad Begh is found stabbed in the chest, lying in a water channel in the Qila, poor Faisal is the only one around. But what of the fact that, minutes before his demise, the victim had stepped out of the haveli of Shahjahanabad’s most ravishing courtesan? Could not the sultry Mehtab Banu and her pale, delicate sister, Gulnar have something to do with the murder? Determined to save his friend, Muzaffar decides to investigate, with only a cup now and then of that new-fangled brew – ‘Allah, so bitter’ – called coffee to help him. A trail of clues leads him from Mehtab’s haveli out into the streets of seventeenth-century Dilli – rife with rumours of Dara Shukoh’s strange leanings and Prince Aurangzeb’s rebelliousness – into a conspiracy far more sinister than he had imagined...

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