Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall

Title: The Case of the Missing Servant: From the Files of Vish Puri, Most Private Investigator
Author: Tarquin Hall
ISBN: 9781439172377
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2010
Paperback, 336 pages
Genre: Cozy, Private Investigator, #1 Vish Puri mystery
Rating: A
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!


  1. The author is new to me. Thanks for this post. The book looks interesting.

  2. Cathy - Oh, I liked this one very much, too! I'm so glad you enjoyed it :-). What I like is how Hall weaves India so effectively through the novel :-)

  3. We read and discussed this one with my mystery group this last spring. It was a great favorite. Made me want to run out for Indian food the whole time! LOL

    I loved the setting and loved the characters and their interesting nicknames. I have the second book here (THE MAN WHO DIED LAUGHING) and am looking forward to reading it soon. Glad this one worked well for you and let us know how the Indian food for the crock pot goes.

  4. I totally agree with your review - I thought the characters were great and the mystery was interesting, but it was the setting that captivated me.

  5. I really must try Tarquin Hall's books since you like them so much. Now, how do I get my meat and potatoes husband to try Indian food?

  6. Mystica-- The book is very interesting. I hope you get a chance to read it.

    Margot-- Yes! There's not a doubt in your mind where the action is taking place!

    Kay-- Will do on the Indian Slow Cooker book!

    Swapna-- This is the best book for setting that I've read in a long time.

    Barbara-- The only way I'm going to try it is by cooking it for Denis, so I really don't have any advice! LOL

  7. I'm so glad to read this great review...I don't read alot of mysteries, but when I do they are always cozys, and I like them to have a particular "hook" -- usually food...this one sounds so interesting, and as I haven't read much set in India, I think it would be a great read for me. Thanks :)

  8. This sounds like a great series. I love the food aspect of it, too!

  9. TBG-- You're welcome. I hope you are able to give it a try. I think you'd really enjoy it!

    Belle-- I'm looking forward to reading the second book in the series!


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