Gigi Pandian’s Pirate Vishnu gives us a protagonist who is a long way from perfect. In fact, she is so imperfect, she’s endearing. Jaya Jones, a Berkeley historian-turned-sleuth heads up a delicious tall tale about a treasure map, magicians, musicians, mysterious ancestors, and a few bad men. When a man asks Jaya, whose ancestors came from the Tamil area of southern India, to help him translate a 100-years-old Tamil-language treasure map, she readily agrees, especially since the map’s creator was her own great-granduncle Anand. After lending the original document for Jaya to study, the man leaves, and is promptly murdered. Jaya, in a pretty sloppy move for a professional historian, keeps the priceless artifact face up on her table, whereupon one of her eccentric friends sets his coffee cup down on it, leaving a stain. Does Jaya learn anything from her carelessness? Nah. Instead of having the map photocopied, as any careful historian would do, she stuffs the map into her purse as if it were no more valuable than a sheet of loose-leaf paper. Then she walks around town with it until she’s mugged and the map is stolen. Belatedly realizing the foolishness of her behavior, she attempts to re-create the map in her mind. Using her memory as a guide, she then sets off to find the treasure, which she believes is in India. Pirate Vishnu is told in two voices and two time periods: Jaya’s and Anand’s, which allows the author to explore the India and San Francisco of the early 1900s. Some of the more intriguing areas covered in this mystery are the bars of the old Barbary Coast, and the treatment of the sailors and Asian immigrants who frequented them. Fascinating, too, is the look at the early Spiritualist movement and the charlatans who preyed upon the gullible. But even though Jaya handles historical documents rather sloppily, given her feisty personality and multiple skills (she also plays the tabla, an Indian drum), she remains intriguing. Jaya has a warm, loving heart, but when her boyfriend suddenly dumps her without explanation, she doesn’t waste time crying over him. Instead, she continues to take care of business—which in this case, means finding her great-granduncle’s mysterious buried treasure. That, my friends, is focus.