Artefacts have been smuggled out of India since colonial times and author Shobha Nihalani addresses the issue of illegal art trade and ways to preserve heritage in her new book.
Set in Southeast Asia and India, "The Blue Jade" took shape slowly while Nihalani researched the topic of art crime.
Antiquities smuggling is one of the world's most profitable illegal trades, and artefacts have been smuggled out of India since colonial times, she says.
Nihalani also says she is impressed by China's cultural heritage.
"The illegal art trade is also of grave concern for the Chinese authorities. In 'The Blue Jade' I wanted to showcase this commonality between both India and China, in terms of their need to preserve their rich heritage," says.
The novel looks at the murky world of black-market art set against the historical backdrop in the times of legendary princess-saint Mirabai.
Neelam, starting her career as an art curator in Hong Kong, discovers a precious relic hidden inside a statue of Mirabai. The relic turns out to be the most sought-after blue jade pendant, long thought lost.
Neelam must complete her family's unfinished mission of returning the jade safely to the Indian monument where it belongs. But this is no simple task, she must outrun a deadly ring of smugglers who are after the prized blue pendant.
As she travels through India, she trails the fabled journey of Mirabai, in a mystical link of history and present day.
Nihalani, who usually writes in the genre of thrillers, says the characters in her books face many obstacles - some are pushed to the edge, and are tested emotionally and physically.
"They are troubled souls. They have to fight their own darkness with every ounce of strength they have. Overcoming their personal demons and facing their nemesis give them a chance to prove that they can overcome any dilemma purely on willpower and faith within," she says.
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