The Case of the Missing Servant

By Tarquin Hall
Hutchinson: 2009

This book marks the first appearance of Delhi-based private eye Vish Puri whose usual business is checking into the backgrounds of prospective partners in arranged marriages. The detective is not your usual man-of-action hero but, instead, he is a portly 51 year-old Punjabi with an abiding passion for greasy food and a large crew of assistants modelled on Sherlock Holmes’s Baker Street Irregulars.

Puri is approached by Mr. Ajay Kasliwal, a lawyer from Jairpur, who has a major problem. A young maid servant, known only as Mary, has gone missing from the lawyer’s household, and the authorities suspect that he has murdered her. Puri accepts the case and deploys his operatives including a young woman known as Facecream, who poses as a maid servant and obtains a  job in the Kasliwal home. There are many twists and turns before the case is solved and, along the way, Puri has to contend with an assassination attempt and his Mummy’s attempts to involve herself in the investigation.

The Case of the Missing Servant is a very welcome addition to the ‘private eye’ canon and makes absorbing reading. Vish Puri , in my opinion, is one of the most engaging private investigators to emerge for many years, and the book is made richer by the affectionate light it casts on modern Indian life. I sincerely hope that Hall is not resting on his laurels, and that he is hard at work on new adventures for this original hero.

Highly recommended.  🙂

Stop Press: There are more Vish Puri books on the way, as I found out in an excellent interview with Hall in the 18th episode of Jeff Rutherford’s Reading and Writing Podcast.

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