Author: Tarquin Hall
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2010
Paperback, 336 pages
Genre: Cozy, Private Investigator, #1 Vish Puri mystery
Source: Purchased from Alibris.
First Line: Vish Puri, founder and managing director of Most Private Investigators, Ltd., sat alone in a room in a guesthouse in Defense Colony, south Delhi, devouring a dozen green chili pakoras from a greasy takeout box.
In today's Delhi, the fabric of Indian life is being changed by call centers and malls. Most of Vish Puri's business comes from screening prospective marriage partners. Aunties and family priests just can't keep up in this age of the Internet. However, Vish branches out when an honest local lawyer is accused of killing his maid, and it takes all of his resources to investigate.
In The Case of the Missing Servant, Hall does the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency one better. I knew I would like this portly private eye as soon as I learned his business was above the Bahri Sons bookshop. With his love of food and his insistence that the principles of detection were established in India more than two thousand years ago, Vish Puri could be just a figure of affectionate fun, but he does know his stuff, and his team of undercover operatives (with names like Facecream and Tubelight to protect their identities) is very good.
The mystery is puzzling, and the assassination attempt on Puri's life which is ignored by him and investigated by his mother is a secondary plot that's truly funny.
As much as I loved Hall's characters and plot, I was totally absorbed in the book's setting. Hall brought modern India to life in all its complexity and contradictions. Included in the back is a glossary which I found useful mainly for the Punjabi cuisine that Vish Puri loves so much, and I have to admit reading The Case of the Missing Servant "forced" an unexpected second purchase: an Indian slow cooker cookbook. Since my husband loves Indian cuisine, he's going to reap the rewards of the second purchase.
How am I going to reap the rewards of Tarquin Hall's first book about a wily, lovable private investigator? By greedily gobbling up future books in the series!