Princess Jahanara's Notebook
By Ali Kiper
Our story begins during the time of the First Anglo Afghan war. The protagonist of our tale , William Marlowe, is an English adventurer working for the British Queen's Foreign Service. When the story begins, William is sent, in the spring of 1850, to Kabul to the palace of Dost Mohammed, the ruler of Afghanistan. His assignment is to prepare the groundwork for better relations between the British and the Afghan governments. During their initial meeting, the ruler is interrupted and forced to leave the talk with his entourage only to encounter an unruly tribal chief and his men outside the palace. William is left alone in the meeting room. As he tries to find his way out of the palace, he hears a gunshot. When he stumbles into a room, he finds an unconscious woman, a dead palace guard, and a richly decorated box containing antique items, a locked velvet covered jewelry box, as well as a small notebook. William quickly pockets this notebook.
Once translated, the cramped Persian writings reveal the owner of the notebook to be Princess Jahanara, daughter of Shah Jahan of the Great Moghul Empire, and they concern the mystery of a big beautiful diamond.
Very much impressed with this information, William becomes determined to find out what happened to this elusive diamond. The chase takes him to the Middle East, Russia, and Istanbul in the Ottoman Empire.
After 8 years, William returns to Bala Hissar as a negotiator for the British government, to improve relations with the current ruler. The negotiations were interrupted by a commotion outside involving local tribes. While waiting to resume the meeting, William starts exploring other rooms and inadvertently interrupts a burglary. Before being knocked out, he retrieves a book from a mysterious box, which also contains valuable stones. The book speaks of a rather large diamond that William believes is also in the box. Obsessed with finding the diamond, he follows its trail, seemingly always a step behind.
I like when a story takes historical events and adds a fictional tale to it. This was a very intriguing storyline involving mystery and travel combined. It was comical the way the diamond kept changing hands, and always seemed just out of reach. I was pulling for William to find it and disappear. I was holding my breath at the end, because I could see it coming, although it was a very fitting ending.
**The above opinions are 100% my own, whether I purchased the book or it was given to me to review.
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About the Author
I had my undergraduate training in engineering in Istanbul. This city had started as Byzantium, became the capital of the Roman Empire under Constantine The Great and was called Constantinople. Later it became the capital of the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul. Historical richness of this city is unparalleled.
I completed my graduate studies in the United States and starting 1962 taught mechanical engineering in different universities and retired from the George Washington University as an emeritus professor of engineering.