The Case of the Missing Servant
From the files of Vish Puri, India's "Most Private Investigator"
By Tarquin Hall Center Point Large Print, 2009
Reviewed by Herbet White - April 9, 2012
India is a complex and exotic country - even for those that live there. It is home to cultures both ancient and modern, there are at least 23 languages that are 'officially recognized' in India, and it is a country filled with more than a billion people, of which there are 212 recognized tribal groups in addition to such religious and cultural groups as Hindus, Moslems, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhist, and many, many more. In this eclectic mix you'll find Vish Puri, a Punjabi private investigator and founder of Most Private Investigators, Ltd. Located in New Delhi, the company is primarily concerned with screening potential marriage partners for the numerous arranged marriages that take place in India every year, following errant spouses, and doing background checks for various clients, and for various reasons. Nonetheless, Vish Puri is not opposed to taking on more challenging cases, and this is exactly what he does in The Case of the Missing Servant.
Written by Tarquin Hall, and filled with exquisite details about India, this is both a mystery and a travelogue. It even includes a glossary of terms at the end of the book that you will find yourself referring to countless times unless you happen to already be familiar with Indian history and culture. In this case, Puri comes to the aid of Ajay "Chippy" Kasliwal, a public litigator (lawyer) who has been accused of murdering his servant, who had disappeared several months before. To clear his name, Kasliwal needs to produce the girl, something he cannot do because he honestly has no idea where she is. Puri sets out to find out what really happened to the girl, something that is harder to do then he ever could have imaged, in part because all he has to go on is that she is female, and her name is Mary, and she worked as a maidservant in Kasliwal's house doing such tasks as cleaning and doing the laundry. To find Mary, Puri will have to travel across the breadth of India, and venture into both India's most despicable slums and most affluent enclaves.
The Case of the Missing Servant is a wonderfully atmospheric mystery, which invokes the shades of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. Puri is portly, determined to the point of being hard headed at times, and he is both astute and very intelligent - all traits that help him to solve any puzzle that he sets his mind to. Well plotted and set in Modern India, this story offers readers not only a challenging mystery to solve along with Puri, but also offers a glimpse into a county that is truly foreign to many readers. For those who are familiar with India, you'll find that Hall has expertly captured the cadence of life in India, and it's varied eccentricities. In short, The Case of the Missing Servant is an all-around excellent mystery, and its lead detective, Vish Puri, a man who can get the job done, no matter how unsolvable a case appears to be!
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Poirot's Early Cases, by Agatha Christie.
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