British journalist Tarquin Hall has created one of the best new characters in quite some time. Vish Puri is a Punjabi private investigator who founded Most Private Investigators Ltd., and specializes in matrimonial work. Since marriages in India are still arranged, families hire Puri to quietly investigate the prospective brides and grooms to see if they are suitable.
While these types of cases are his bread and butter, he longs to pick up cases that are more challenging. Although he juggles several cases in this novel, his greatest opportunity to show his skills comes when an influential attorney from Jaipur is accused of killing one of the servants in his household.
Mary is believed to have run off to her village, but a body recently found by the side of the road has been positively identified by several so-called reliable witnesses. When Ajay Kasiwal is arrested for her murder, Puri goes into action.
Puri deftly and quietly puts his team into place. He plants operative Facecream undercover in the Kasiwal household, and has his best operatives, Tubelight and Flush, in position around the area. He has a penchant for nicknames for those around him including his wife, Rumpi, his new driver, Handbrake, and the extraordinarily lazy office boy, Door Stop. Puri, himself, is called Chubby by his family and friends.
In the meantime, as he is tending his roof garden someone takes a couple of shots at Puri causing his household great distress. Soon his long-suffering wife and his retired schoolteacher mother are doing their best to keep him safe. The more Puri tries to keep his mother, Mummy, from trying to help him, the more determined she is to protect her Chubby and find out who has reason to kill him.
The teeming sites and sounds of India as described in great detail by Hall add to the ambiance of the novel. Puri uses a combination of modern methods and 2,000-year-old techniques to solve crimes, and the author deftly weaves the old with the increasingly more modern Delhi, India in his setting.
The Case of the Missing Servant combines humor with harsh detail regarding life in present-day India. The combination of reality and humor provide a great first novel. Tarquin Hall has created a unique detective who is sure to draw comparisons to Hercule Poirot, but who is his own man.
Others will see a resemblance to No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Whatever the comparisons, this first novel is a welcome addition to the world of international cozies.
A special thank you goes to Simon & Schuster for providing a complimentary copy of The Case of the Missing Servant for review. If you are interested in purchasing a copy, you can find this book and the next, The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing, at Amazon.com.