In hot and dusty Delhi, Puri's main work comes from screening prospective marriage partners, a job once the preserve of aunties and family priests. But when an honest public litigator is accused of murdering his maidservant, it takes all of Puri's resources to investigate. How will he trace the fate of the girl, known only as Mary, in a population of more than one billion? Who is taking pot shots at him and his prize chilli plants? And why is his widowed "Mummy-ji" attempting to play sleuth when everyone knows Mummies are not detectives? With his team of undercover operatives--Tubelight, Flush, and Facecream--Puri ingeniously combines modern techniques with principles of detection established in India more than 2000 years ago - long before "that Johnny-come-lately" Sherlock Holmes donned his Deerstalker.
From his well-heeled Gymkhana Club to the slums where the servant classes live, Puri's adventures reveal modern India in all its seething complexity.
©2009 Sacred Cow Media Ltd.; (P)2009 BBC Audio
The narration and character voices were outstanding. I was sick while listening, and this audio book helped keep me distracted.
The mystery itself kept me engaged, but I especially loved the local flavor. Woven into the mystery's seems were lovely extras about Indian life, from TV shows to the legal system, medical system, castes, country clubs, socioeconomic inequality, etc.
People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks.
Vish Puri is a private detective in Delhi juggling several cases -- the missing servant girl of the title, a judge accused of murder, potential political corruption, and the suitability of a prospective groom, as well as an attempt on his own life. Helping him are an array of characters, including (under his perpetual protest) his mother. All set to the sights and sounds, tastes and smells, people and places, morals and mores, and social and religious diversity of modern India.
But what sets this IMFL (Indian-Made Foreign Literature) apart, especially in audio, is author Tarquin Hall's masterful use of Indian English. Though born in London to American and English parents, the former journalist now lives in Delhi with his Indian wife. Clearly reveling in the charming (as he calls it) way Indians have appropriated (malappropriated) the English language, Hall has created a series of novels that allow us to listen in.
"English is a mongrel language and the English themselves have had no qualms about looting tens of thousands of words from other languages (and often changed the meanings) so why shouldn’t others do the same," Hall writes in introducing his Indian-English glossary. We are the beneficiaries of his golden ear for how English has evolved in his adopted land in this first entry in the Vish Puri mystery series.
As much as I have come to appreciate audiobooks set in India or about Indians (far more than in print), as I have previously remarked in reviewing Q&A (Slumdog Millionaire), A Son of the Circus, Life of Pi, and The 100-Foot Journey, there has to be more to it than just their lilting present tense manner of speaking. There has to be a good story. Hall's story is in the mystery format, with a complex plot that has all the hallmarks of ultimately coming together in a manner essential to a good mystery -- at once anticipated and unanticipated.
But... it didn't come together in the way I anticipated, and the unanticipated elements were not satisfying (for me). I don't want to get into details that would be spoilers. Stylistically, the story rushes too hurriedly to its denouement, leaving a lot of plot potential on the table. My understanding is that the Puri series gets better with each entry, so I will definitely be giving it another go. Whether this works for you, however, depends on how interested you think you would be in the landscape and language -- without that, this is just another mystery novel.
I live full-time in a motorhome, traveling west of the Rockies.
Amusing intricate mystery
I enjoy the family life of the lead character Puri, especially his mother Mummyji. Their interactions are amusing while still advancing one of the subplots that enliven the story. Similarly, the characters of Puri's various operatives as they investigate one or another mystery are by turns delightful and effective in turning up clues. Throughout the book, Indian culture and daily life provide an exotic background without minimizing the effects of poverty and corruption on the lives of the Indian people.
His narration is excellent. His accents and enunciation make the characters come alive and enhance the setting of the story.
It made me smile and chuckle while keeping me hooked on the central mystery as well as the two subplots.
This is the second of Tarquin Hall's mysteries I have read. The first (The Man Who Died Laughing) was more exotic and involved unusual characters - gods and magicians, while this one seemed more down to earth. With Sam Dastor's wonderful narration, I'll order the the rest of the series to enjoy.
The narration is, to put it in the words of Vish Puri, truly first class. Dastor beautifully captures the nuance and rhythms of Delhi English just as Hall captures the details of upper middle class Indian life.
The twists of the plot are engaging, as is Vish Puri.
Highly recommend for anyone who knows anything of the culture, or indeed anyone who wants to get a charming (and realistically dodgy and corrupt) taste of modern India.
I am currently working in the Middle East and many of the characters seemed very authentic (as well as entertaining).
The relationships portrayed in the book were spot on.
I am planning on purchasing the other books in this series. A very nice listen on the way to work.
I loved the characters-all of them.
He has such an ego, but he also is wise and compassionate to his servants and clients.
I also loved Mummy very much.
Thank you, Sam Dastor, for giving us perfect voices for the series. .
I'm already listening to the second volume and very much anticipating enjoying the third installment.
I would definitely listen to Sam Dastor in other books and series.
Living the Modern Indian Dream Life.
I wish there were a way to translate the slang used. I get the point, but I'd love to understand more of the particulars.
This book is just perfect. It's one of the best listens, & I've been an audible member for 4 years or more. I also got the other Vish Puri mystery & love it as well. I sure hope there are more in the works. Never been to India, but I feel I'm there when I listen to these books.
Yes I am sure I get something new out of it
The slice of life in India
Made me laugh
When is the next book
I learned a lot about life in modern India from listening to this book. Some of it rather sad, although the book is pretty comical.
It did. The mystery was introduced in a clever way and kept me intrigued to the very end.
His charming accent and the way he creates the various characters.
Most of the book warranted chuckles.
I highly recommend this book for an entertaining experience as well as insight into what is almost a different world.
This book conjures the atmosphere of modern New Delhi and the social milieu in which the story occurs. Satirical glimpses of the burgeoning nouveaux riches are hilarious. A great yarn that also provides an insight into the level of corruption in the red-tape-drowned bureaucracy. I just loved the weaving of the various cases that were pursued and how the conclusions were neatly written. Above all this is an amusing and light novel with lovable and droll characters drawn against a backdrop of systemic corruption. I loved it and couldn't put it down. The narrator is a perfect choice and he evokes the characters brilliantly. A lovely marriage of story and performance.
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