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Raaz Mahal: The Palace of Secrets. Book Review

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

Neal Nathan's Raaz Mahal is an intriguing mystery thriller centered around India's most iconic monument - the Taj Mahal. I picked up this book with much curiosity given the recent controversies around the Taj and was thoroughly impressed with what I read.

The story follows Vijay Kumar, a brilliant but eccentric government archaeologist trying to uncover the truth about the Taj, the famous symbol of love, while working on an RTI petition seeking evidence of Shah Jahan building the monument. What unravels through the 460-page mystery set in current-day Agra and London is bound to challenge your beliefs about the Taj.

From the get-go, Neal sets up an eerie atmosphere with the opening scene. Vijay's nightmares, wanderings, and hallucinations already indicate he is no ordinary man. As Vijay forms a team and gets cracking on the RTI response, Neal introduces us to a cast of characters - Vijay's associates like Soniya, Malik, and Samir as well as historical figures like Shah Jahan through flashbacks to the Mughal era. This parallel storyline format and frequent time jumps add intrigue.

What I loved about Raaz Mahal was the tension Neal builds through Vijay's logical questioning and step-by-step investigation into every claim using the Socratic method. The multiple red herrings like the mysterious G.S.V., Dr. Roy’s secret report, Interpol’s smuggling alerts, and references from travelers’ accounts will keep you guessing what’s going on. The break-in at the Taj and the shocking discovery of the dead body was my favorite part.

The climax revelations, especially around the Badshahnama chronicles and letters between key characters, bring satisfying closure. Neal's grasp over Indian history and weaving in of Mughal elements gives this genre-bending book an air of authenticity.

With vivid storytelling and multi-layered characters, Raaz Mahal makes for an addictive, illuminating read perfect for history buffs. I’d easily rate it 4.5/5. Whether you’re a fan of thrillers, historical fiction or just want to unravel the secrets of the Taj, don’t miss this fresh thriller.

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