4.0 out of 5 starsHistory, Mystery, Espionage and Love in late 19C India

Shalimar begins in 1890 shortly after the death of Emma Wyncliffe’s father, who was found frozen on a glacier high in the Himalayas during an archeological expedition that went tragically awry. The Wyncliffe’s are left with little funds and Emma’s brother David in the throes of gambling bets and loses the family home to the mysterious Damien Granville. For reasons of his own, Damien offers to void the gambling debt if Emma will marry him and live at Shalimar, his estate in the Vale of Kashmir.

As Emma tries to reconcile herself to a loveless marriage, mystery and intrigue take center stage as many players unfold in an international chase between Great Britain, Russia and China as they play the Great Game to unlock the secret to the long hidden Yasmina Pass, as whoever holds access to the pass holds the key to control of the unclaimed regions that sit in the center of the borders of India, Russia and China. Emma unknowingly holds the key to it all (or does she?), and who is the mysterious Armenian slave Ivana that all players in the game are desperate to find at all costs?

No one (except Emma of course) is who or what they appear to be on the surface and the author keeps the reader guessing with plentiful twists, turns and big surprises all the way until the very last pages. This was a top notch novel of mystery and intrigue and I found it very difficult to put down, especially the last 100 or so pages. The author’s knowledge of India and its culture shines through, and I especially loved the gorgeous glimpses of the Himalayas and Kashmir Valley. Just a warning, if you’re expecting a love story on a scale of Ryman’s fabulous Olivia and Jai you will probably be very disappointed. However, if you want a novel filled with abundant history, mystery, treachery and intrigue that keeps you on your seat until the end I’d say go for it if you can find a copy used at a reasonable price.