Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Book Review: THE TOWER OF SILENCE by Phiroshaw Jamsetjee Chevalier ‘Chaiwala’

I have Indiblogger and Harper Collins to thank for the opportunity to read and review The Tower of Silence by Phiroshaw Jamsetjee Chevalier ‘Chaiwala’.


The book has an Introduction by Editor Gyan Prakash that is 25 pages long. Unfazed, I read it completely only to realise that the journey of the editor while tracing the book is totally fascinating. In fact, it was like a mini book in itself.

I was hooked right from the beginning as Gyan Prakash happened upon a part of the script of The Tower of Silence and later his search in the many libraries of Mumbai as well as his search for Phiroshaw Jamsetjee and his lineage among the Parsee community living in the city.

Harper Collins website says…

A long-lost Sexton Blake mystery, 1920s detective fiction at its best!

Historian Gyan Prakash of Princeton University stumbled upon part of the unpublished manuscript of Tower of Silence by Phiroshaw Jamsetjee Chevalier (or Chaiwala, as he called himself) in the British Library. After scouring several Mumbai libraries, he found the missing pages.

It is a thrilling tale that begins on a blistering April afternoon in Poona with the click of a camera shutter. An aerial photograph is taken from a small aircraft flying directly over the Tower of Silence. The Zoroastrian community is thrown into turmoil and horrified grief at this heinous act.

Beram, a suave wealthy man who drives around in a Rolls Royce but is a devout Parsee, decides to exact revenge. Thus begins a sensational cat-and-mouse game between Beram and Sexton Blake, England’s most famous detective.


After the attention-grabbing introduction, I found it a mite difficult getting into the story. So, it took me a few days to actually begin reading the book. But once I got my teeth into it, it turned out to be very absorbing and I managed to read it fast.

The language is quaint fitting in with that used in the 1920s. I enjoyed reading about ‘Bombay’ and ‘Poona’. To be truthful, I miss ‘Bombay’.

Then there were these details about the Parsee community that I had never known. The book is a mine of information about them and one can be confident about its authenticity considering that the book was written by a Parsee. It makes for a very interesting read.

The main characters – Beram and Sexton Blake – are well etched. While Sexton Blake is a detective who appears in many mystery thrillers by different authors during the 20th century, Beram is unique to The Tower of Silence.

The story takes the reader through many prominent cities in England, Burma and India – London, Liverpool, Manchester, Burma, Bombay and Poona. Fast paced, the book keeps the reader wonder how Beram and Blake will outwit each other in the next scene.

While Sexton Blake is doing his best to save the lives of the people who have offended the Parsee religious community, we wonder whether Beram and his people would be cruel enough to kill in the name of their religion. The end of the story truly restored my faith in humanity.

An interesting book that brings alive the lives of Parsees during the British Raj!

Click Here to read an interesting article about The Tower of Silence by Phiroshaw Jamsetjee Chevalier ‘Chaiwala’. The article has been penned by Eunice de Souza.

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