Sunday, 20 October 2013

Review: The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall.

Book: The Case of the Missing Servant

Author: Tarquin Hall

Pages: 311

How Long it Took Me to Read: 10 days but that's not because it's a slow read but because I was traveling.

Plot Summary: The portly Vish Puri is India’s most accomplished detective, at least in his own estimation, and is also the hero of an irresistible new mystery series set in hot, dusty Delhi. Puri’s detective skills are old-fashioned in a Sherlock Holmesian way and a little out of sync with the tempo of the modern city, but Puri is clever and his methods work. 

The Case of the Missing Servant shows Puri (“Chubby” to his friends) and his wonderfully nicknamed employees (among them, Handbrake, Flush, and Handcream) hired for two investigations. The first is into the background of a man surprisingly willing to wed a woman her grand-father considers unmarriageable, and the second is into the disappearance six months earlier of a servant to a prominent Punjabi lawyer, a young woman known only as Mary.

The Most Private Investigator novels offer a delicious combination of ingenious stories, brilliant writing, sharp wit, and a vivid, unsentimental picture of contemporary India. And from the first to the last page run an affectionate humour and intelligent insights into both the subtleties of Indian culture and the mysteries of human behaviour.

{Since this is a detective story, I will be just talking about the book generally.}

General Thoughts and Review: I had seen this book on bookshelves over and over again and even though I'd flip through it and put it back. I don't know why I didn't pick it up. But I am glad I finally changed my mind and bought this a few weeks ago. After reading the book, though, I guess my biggest reason for not picking this up initially was because it was one of those book- written by a "foreigner" about India. You know, a book version of 'Slumdog Millionaire', which actually is based on a book written by an Indian, so go figure! Anyway, the point is that whenever someone who is not from here writes about India, it always ends up being a convenient, cliched, unidimensional tale of oh-poor-third-world-country-full-of-beggars-slums-and-snake-charmers. So, even though this book does not mention snake charmers or elephants, but its tone is a bit like that- condescending and mean.

Anyway, I did pick it up. The stunning cover may have had a little something to do with it. :)

To be fair, most of the characters in this book were very endearing and, even though they were slightly cliched, they still made me smile. I especially liked Vish Puri and his Mummyji, a little detective in her own right. I loved the little cases in the book and how Vish Puri went about solving each of them. I also liked all of Vish Puri's little helpers.

Now on the mystery part of the book: Well, like the blurb on the back says, there are a couple of mysteries going on in the book. But the missing servant, is obviously the main mystery. There were some flaws in the plot line. The end of the mystery especially left a lot to be desired, a lot of questions weren't answered and the reasoning of the perpetrator was also not properly explained. Actually, the motive behind the servant going missing was not explained clearly. (Don't want to give more away in case you want to read the book! ;))

That being said, this book though a detective story, is also a book full of wonderful characters and instances of smart deduction and cleverness. Vish Puri uses a combination of old school logic (ala Poirot and Holmes) coupled with a few modern tricks as well. All in all, the book is a charming, fun, breezy read.

My sister read it after I did and we both also thought that the author's use of 'Indian English' (interpreted as grammatically incorrect English- how typical!) was a tad bit irksome! We get it! You are a Brit in India and you probably hear very bizarre sounding English from the less educated now and then, but that does not give you the license to paint all of us with the same racist brush. We would get it if this use of 'Indian English' was restricted to the characters who did not do their schooling in English (e.g. Vish Puri's wife, his staff etc.) but this was the language used for conversations between all Indian characters, which is neither accurate nor fair. After a point, the language got in the way of actually enjoying the book. Dude, if I wanted to read something badly written, I would pick up one of the many new works by random "Indian authors"!

Overall, this is a fun read if you want something light and fluffy with some cute and quirky characters and if you can look past the weird English in it!

Rating: 2.5/5 

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