Saturday, June 20, 2009

The case of the missing servant

Vish Puri (also known as Chubby) is the Punjabi equivalent of Hercule Poirot. Described as stout (he needs to lose thirty pounds) and a “self-confessed master of disguise” with a military moustache waxed and curled at the ends, Puri runs a thriving private investigation business in New Delhi, India.

Puri, who has a penchant for scorching hot chilies, has nicknames for most of his employees (Tubelight, Facecream and Handbrake). His devoted wife Rumpi and his mother, Mummy-Ji are delightfully real life characters.

Ajay Kasliwal retains Puri to investigate the disappearance of his servant, Mary. Kasliwal is a lawyer residing in Jaipur and Mary’s disappearance has everyone talking. Puri’s task is to locate one missing female maidservant out of India’s population of one billion.

Alternating between Puri’s investigation into Mary’s whereabouts and his “Pre-Matrimonial Five Star Comprehensive Service” investigation into Ramesh Goel, the potential husband of Vimi Singla, Hall weaves an engaging delightful story. The story leads inevitably to its final climax with the solving of both investigations and the promise of more Vishi Puri cases in the future as hinted by the secondary plot involving an unsolved attempt on Puri’s life.

Hall’s dialogue is both humorous and rich with Punjabi influences and his descriptions of life and people are vivid as Puri travels from various locales in New Delhi to Jaipur, the Pink city and to the remote uranium mines of Jharkhand.
Horns blared constantly, a clamour as jarring as a primary school brass band. Loudest of all were the Blueline buses. Driven by charas-smoking maniacs who were given financial incentives for picking up the most passengers, even if they ended up killing or maiming some of them. ‘Bloody goondas,’ Puri called them.

This is a mystery with a different flavor and will definitely appeal to those who like a light read that includes an exotic cultural flavour. To aid in the latter, The case of the missing servant has a glossary at the back for the many punjabi words used throughout the book.

Book Details:

The case of the missing servant by Tarquin Hall.
Meet Vish Puri, Most Private Investigator.

Sacred Cow Media 2009
312 pp

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