The Secret Keeper of Jaipur (The Jaipur Trilogy, 2)

Written by Alka Joshi
Review by Kristen McDermott

Joshi enjoyed terrific success with her debut novel, The Henna Artist, when it was chosen for Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine book club in 2020. Fans of that novel will be thrilled to revisit her beloved characters in this sequel. The story picks up 10 years after the events that moved the narrator, Lakshmi, from the vibrant city of Jaipur in northern India to the much quieter environs of the village of Shimla in the foothills of the Himalayas. The year is 1969, but the setting is still a very traditional segment of India; she has married her friend and ally, Dr. Jay Kumar, and they have set up a practice together at a small community hospital, where Lakshmi tends an herbal Healing Garden and assists her husband. Her young ward, Malik, has finished school and is about to make the trek back to Jaipur to learn about business from Lakshmi’s friend Manu Agarwal, the adoptive father of the son of her sister Radha, whose pregnancy in the first novel caused such difficulties for Lakshmi’s hard-won status as a respectable henna artist catering to the rich and powerful women of modern urban India.

There are multiple narrators in this book: Lakshmi, Malik, and a new voice, Nimmi, a tribal woman who becomes Malik’s love interest. The action alternates between Jaipur, where Malik investigates the tragic collapse of the palatial new cinema house his mentor’s firm has built, and Shimla, where Lakshmi and Jay try to protect Nimmi from murderous gold smugglers who operate in her tribal lands. Joshi preserves the charming details of food, fashion, and herbal cures that were so appealing in the first novel, while managing the complex threads of the plot neatly. The contrast between Old and New India is vivid, but Lakshmi, as empathetic and practical as ever, moves smoothly between the two worlds.