THE CASE OF THE MISSING SERVANT by Tarquin Hall
“Puri considered the doctor’s stern warning as he sank his teeth into another hot, crispy pakora and his taste buds thrilled to the tang of salty batter, fiery chili and the tangy red chutney in which he had drowned the illicit snack. He derived a perverse sense of satisfaction from defying Dr. Mohan’s orders.
Still, the fifty-one-year-old detective shuddered to think what his wife would say if she found out he was eating between meals — especially “outside” food that had not been prepared by her own hands (or at least by one of the servants).
Keeping this in mind, he was careful not to get any incriminating grease spots on his clothes. And once he had finished his snack and disposed of the takeout box, he washed the chutney off his hands and checked beneath his manicured nails and between his teeth for any telltale residue. Finally he popped some sonf into his mouth to freshen his breath.”
Review by Lynn Harnett (APR 21, 2010)
Vish Puri, founder of the Most Private Investigators Ltd., and something of an Indian Hercule Poirot, supports his comfortable lifestyle with matrimonial background checks, but every once in a while something more worthy of his talents comes along. Puri is often compared to Sherlock Holmes for the acuity of his observation, but Puri disdains the comparison, preferring to cite 2,000 year-old Indian detecting principles â€“ Holmesâ€™ inspiration.
A decade earlier, Puri and his wife moved to the rural fields outside of Delhi to escape the sprawl and pollution of the city. But the New India has caught up to them. Housing developments, factories and office buildings have gobbled the farmersâ€™ fields and roads criss-cross the land spewing smog. Every morning Puri gives his precious chili plants a bath and the next morning they are coated in grime once again.
In this first appearance, Puri, dressed to the nines, munching mouth-watering hot and crunchy snacks, and bemoaning the breakdown of society, comes to the aid of a lawyer who has just been accused of raping and murdering his servant girl.
The evidence is thin â€“ even proof that the girl is dead is shaky. But the lawyer has angered some powerful people. Heâ€™s a crusading type who has taken on corruption in government and refuses to be bribed or silenced. The case gives Hall a chance to explore Indiaâ€™s vast, hilariously, stunningly complex bureaucracy and its attendant miasma of corruption.
Puri has his methods of cutting the tangles of red tape, however, and help from his team of loyal and quick-witted assistants as well as his tenacious and even quicker-witted mother (looking into an attempted shooting of her son) and unflappable wife, keep things moving at home and throughout the city.
Though the plot is entertaining the real fun here is the eccentric Puri; his appreciation of spicy â€“ very spicy â€“ food, his strong opinions, his various eccentricities and his ingenuity and resourcefulness.
Hall, a British journalist, captures the contradictions and hugeness of modern India with its mania for growth and its love of tradition, its new rich and ever poor, its giddy wealth and grinding, shocking poverty.
Charming, witty, clever and atmospheric, Hallâ€™s foray into fiction is a winner.
|AMAZON READER RATING:||from 155 readers|
|PUBLISHER:||Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (April 20, 2010)|
|AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK?||YES! Start Reading Now!|
|AUTHOR WEBSITE:||Tarquin Hall|
|MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION:||Another detective story set in India:
- The Case of the Missing Servant (2009)
- The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing (2010)
- The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken (2012)
- The Case of the Love Commandos (2013)