Reviews by L. J. Roberts

TARQUIN HALL – The Case of the Missing Servant. Simon & Schuster, hardcover, June 2009; trade paperback, April 2010.

Genre:   Private Investigator. Leading character:  Vish Puri; 1st in series. Setting:   India.

First Sentence:   Vish Puri, founder and managing director of Most Private Investigators Ltd., sat alone in a room in a guesthouse in Defence Colony, South Delhi, devouring a dozen green chili pakoras* from a greasy takeout box.

TARQUIN HALL - The Case of the Missing Servant

   Private Investigator Vish Puri has his hands full. An honest and respected public litigator has been accused of murdering his maidservant. The police say they have witnesses of him dumping the body. Puri must prove the man’s innocence and find the real killer.

   A second case has Puri investigating a potential bridegroom. The bride’s father is certain there is something his daughter’s fiancée is hiding. And who attempted to kill Puri while he was on his own rooftop?

   Puri is often compared by others to Sherlock Holmes but he also reminds me of Hercule Poiroit, albeit with a larger spirit. He also made me think, a bit, of Louise Penny’s Insp. Gamache because of his four rules of detection. All together, he is a very likable, appealing character. He’s not perfect, fortunately, as he has an intense fear of flying.

   Puri is supported by a fascinating team of operatives, each with their own background. Best of all is Mummy, his mother, who conducts her own investigation and has the experience for so doing. No amateurs here.

   It is fascinating to look at an entirely different culture. One forgets how old a civilization is India yet it a culture in transition. There is a bit of a moral and/or cautionary tale for Westerners here. The gap between the wealthy and the poor is huge. The old jobs for the individual and the poor are disappearing. The Indian court and justice system is a shamble. Bribery is the way in which much gets done. “How can India reach superpower status with all the corruption around.”

   Yet Puri also observes that Krishna stated “The discharge of one’s moral duty supersedes all other pursuits, whether spiritual or material.”.

   The three mysteries within the story are very well done. There is nothing obvious about them and the investigation is done through following the clues and investigative procedure, which I like, and the writing is first rate.

   This was a very enjoyable book and one I probably would not have picked up had it not been a selection of my mystery readers’ group. I definitely recommend The Case of the Missing Servant and I plan to read more in the series.

Rating:   Very Good.

Editorial Comment:   Number two in the series is The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing (2010).