Monday, June 28, 2010

The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall

Protagonist: Vish Puri
Setting: Delhi, India
Rating: 4.7
Vish Puri, a 51-year-old detective, owns Most Private Investigators, an agency that deals mostly with matrimonial issues. In this modern age, in which aunties no longer set up as many arranged marriages, parents seek out Most Private Investigators to screen prospective marriage partners. The work keeps Puri busy, along with his undercover operatives, who he's nicknamed: Tubelight, Flush, Hand Brake (his driver) and Facecream.

But his life is about to get even busier. A public litigator asks Puri for help -- he's been accused of murdering his maidservant. The servant has gone missing; a woman is found dead in town, but she may or may not be the servant (Puri only has a first name, Mary, as a clue to finding her). Also, Brigadier Kapoor, an important man, wants Puri to discredit the man engaged to his granddaughter, even though the groom seems squeaky-clean. Finally, someone is trying to kill Puri, shooting at him as he tends his rooftop chili plants. But he's so busy that he doesn't spend much time on his own murder attempt. Instead, to his utter frustration, his mother starts sleuthing, leading Puri to chastise her with: "It's not a mummy's role, actually."

This was a quirky book, filled with much humor. But it also had great detective stories and a great character in Puri, who, for all his faults, has a mind equal to Sherlock Holmes or Poirot.

Hall, who has lived in India, has a great ear for the Indian way of phrasing sentences, and wonderfully describes the sights and tastes (especially!) of India. Fortunately, the second book in the series, The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing, has just been published. I think I'll be visiting India, via Puri, soon.

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