Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Book Review: The Case of the Missing Servant (Vish Puri #1) by Tarquin Hall

On the jacket:

Meet Vish Puri, India's most private investigator. Portly, persistent and unmistakably Punjabi, he cuts a determined swathe through modern India's swindlers, cheats and murderers.

In hot and dusty Delhi, where call centres and malls are changing the ancient fabric of Indian life, Puri's main work comes from screening prospective marriage partners, a job once the preserve of aunties and family priests.

But when an honest public litigator is accused of murdering his maidservant, it takes all of Puri's resources to investigate. How will he trace the fate of the girl, known only as Mary, in a population of more than one billion? Who is taking pot shots at him and his prize chilli plants? And why is his widowed 'Mummy-ji' attempting to play sleuth when everyone knows Mummies are not detectives?

With his team of undercover operatives - Tubelight, Flush and Facecream - Puri ingeniously combines modern techniques with principles of detection established in India more than two thousand years ago -- long before 'that Johnny-come-lately' Sherlock Holmes donned his Deerstalker.

The search for Mary takes him to the desert oasis of Jaipur and the remote mines of Jharkhand. From his well-heeled Gymkhana Club to the slums where the servant classes live, Puri's adventures reveal modern India in all its seething complexity.


Nothing overly spectacular, but Vish Puri books are easy reads about good sleuthing done Poirot style, by an Indian in set-ups we are comfortable reading about. A typical Punjabi based in Delhi, Puri is the most private investigator. Through the book, you will find strong fragrances of peculiarities of Delhiites. The characters are real and going by the fact that the protagonist is a detective, minute details are mentioned in every scene. So much, that at times, you can actually visualise as if you are watching a play, and not reading a book.

Though referred to as the Punjabi Sherlock or the Indian Poirot, Puri has a charm of his own and he is truly good in his job. He is pompous and particular, has his own quirks when it comes to work, but he is supposedly the best there can be. He sets forth in solving his first mystery in this book, and I am sure like me, you will fall in love with the characters and the way the plot has been spun.

Rating: ***/5

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

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