Author: Tarquin Hall
Publisher: Arrow Books (Random House)
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In his fourth offering, Vish Puri sets out on a quest to solve what seems like a simple case of kidnapping and ends up excavating a completely new conspiracy of shocking magnitude that puts his life in peril.
Vish Puri of Most Private Investigators, Ltd. is back! Low on cases and with an unsolved case slipping from his hand, Vish Puri is desperate and frantic to get his hands on a good case. So, when his assistant Facecream (Yes, you read it right, you first-timer!) calls him about a kidnapping case, he jumps at this opportunity to prove himself and regain his dwindling popularity. Love Commandos, an organization that works to help couples of different caste/religion to elope and marry, needs Vish Puri’s help in tracking one of their clients who is abducted before he could get married to his rich, upper caste girlfriend. Thus begins the expedition that helps uncover a conspiracy so huge, it could shake the whole of India. On the other side, Mummy-ji has her own case of burglary to investigate.
Tarquin Hall portrays Vish Puri as the Indian version of Hercule Poirot. He is impeccably dressed in his Safaris, bald with a curled up moustache and paunchy (Maybe a little too much like Hercule Poirot?). Yet his investigative and exploratory skills are more like Mma Ramotswe of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency fame. And his English is delightfully funny and familiar – “Just he’s doing timepass.”, “Dear sir, with reference to your above please see my below.” He is sharp and sly but not a one-man army like Poirot. He has his own troupe of helpers – Tubelight (The spy who does all the snooping around), Flush (The tech geek), Facecream (Vish’s smart assistant, adroit with her disguises). Another important character is Mummy-ji, Vish Puri’s mom. A retired teacher, she is inquisitive and often comes out as the typical snoopy elderly woman who loves to poke her nose into other’s affairs. However, you will not find her annoying, but on the contrary, quite resourceful, intuitive, sassy and tenacious with her investigation, often ignoring Vish Puri’s disapproval. A look at his characters in this book shows that Tarquin Hall has a knack for building funny, adorable and relatable characters.
Tarquin Hall has a quaint way of describing the Indian way of life. Be it the travels in Indian railways, the charming streets of Agra or Lucknow or Indian customs and rituals, he uses a lucid narrative technique that reaches out to all his readers and makes them smile or nod with that knowing look – a great feat for an author who is not an Indian. He simplifies the structure and workings of the Indian caste system and its influence on politics for an outsider and points out the prejudices and outcomes of caste based segregation. With his vivid characters and a good plot, Tarquin Hall keeps his readers engaged till the end.
The Not-so Good
The plot seems to drift off the path at certain points which kind of dampens the mystery element. Similarly, a few holes in the plot make the plot less appealing. The burglary plot could have been made brainier; I found it weak and quite straight forward.
This book is a complete package filled with action, mystery, murder, adventure and comedy. For people who like Alexander McCall Smith’s works and want a break from the usual serious action/mystery thrillers, this book will be a welcome read.