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Saturday, July 25, 2009

What I'm Reading: The Case of the Missing Servant

I received a pleasant surprise when I picked up The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall and was introduced to Vish Puri, a 51 year old accomplished private detective and owner of Delhi's Most Private Investigators Ltd.

I was alerted to this title by the publisher's heavy advertising blitz in a few of the book buyer electronic lists I subscribe to. And, am I glad I picked it up. Puri, is a detective in the classic sense of Sherlock Holmes, but he uses very modern technology to solve this complicated case. I loved how the book was modern and old fashioned, all at the same time, much like the city of Delhi and the country of India itself is portrayed.

Here is the background and plot. Puri, known as Chubby by his family (he is a bit overweight) and Boss by his staff, has a loving wife, a few grown kids, and a very successful detective agency (he has even won an international award for his skills). Mostly, Puri and his staff work for the father's of engaged women to surreptitiously check into the background of the potential husbands. However, when a prosecutor in a different city who is known for going after corrupt political officials is accused of killing his missing servant, Puri and his crew try to clear the good man's name and find the missing servant. Oh, and someone is trying to kill Puri too, but his mom is on that case; Puri is too busy to worry about it.

This is a fast paced mystery with interesting characters that will appeal to fans of old fashioned, Agatha Christie type mysteries; Puri even has a monologue which wraps everything up, explaining the entire case and all of the various motives. But it will also appeal to fans of more modern mysteries. Puri and his crew use a lot of technology in their investigations, and an employee even makes fun of his boss's long wrap up monologue.

Which leads me to another appeal. Although most of the book is from Puri's point of view, his mom (Mummy) who is doing her own investigating throughout the book and a few of Puri's employees have their turn to drive the story through their point of view. This stylistic choice helped to keep the pacing up. By the way, Mummy is a great character. I can't wait to read more with her. VIsh Puri will be back, and I will be waiting to read the next one.

Readalikes: As I mentioned, this novel reminded me of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie mysteries.

Also, check what I had to say about The White Tiger when I read it. Although The Case of the Missing Servant is not as "literary" as The White Tiger, I was surprised by how similar the two books were in terms of theme and overall message about modern India's contradictions. So check this other post for more readalikes about India.

A few other mysteries I would suggest that like The Case of the Missing Servant have a strong sense of place, a modern, old fashionedness, and compelling investigators are:

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