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Publisher's Summary

Meet Vish Puri, India's most private investigator. Portly, persistent and unmistakably Punjabi, he cuts a determined swathe through modern India's swindlers, cheats and murderers.

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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Performance

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Story

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  • Dubi
  • New York, NY
  • 12-11-14

Delhi Chatter

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.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Delightful Characters

If you could sum up The Case of the Missing Servant in three words, what would they be?

Amusing intricate mystery

What did you like best about this story?

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.

What about Sam Dastor’s performance did you like?

His narration is excellent. His accents and enunciation make the characters come alive and enhance the setting of the story.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It made me smile and chuckle while keeping me hooked on the central mystery as well as the two subplots.

Any additional comments?

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.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Wonderful

Would you listen to The Case of the Missing Servant again? Why?

Yes I am sure I get something new out of it

What did you like best about this story?

The slice of life in India

What does Sam Dastor bring to the story that you wouldn???t experience if you just read the book?

His accents

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Made me laugh

Any additional comments?

When is the next book

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

A Complete Surprise

Narrator Sam Dastor completely changed my viewpoint on audio books. Because of him, I no longer look for a book to be read to me. I look for a book to be performed for me. Dastor makes a well-written book come alive with characters you really get to know and care about. The narrator does an admirable job of bringing every character to life. They all have distinctly different personalities because of his voice. In audio books I usually find women's voices sound fake, but Dastor slipped in and out of women's voices with great credibility. Peppered with humour and tension, the story of the missing servant unfolds in vivid descriptions of Delhi, Jaipur and other places in India. I enjoyed the Hindi words sprinkled in the story, and felt like they added another layer to the story for people who know some Hindi. This is quite an enjoyable book, and yet the author calls attention to social issues like the abuse of servants, arranged marriages and rape without being heavy handed or didactic. Listeners get the message. In my book, this is my pick of the year 2016. It's a great way to end the year.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Sarah
  • BOERNE, TX, United States
  • 10-08-15

Fascinating Mystery with lots of Local Color

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

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.

Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?

It did. The mystery was introduced in a clever way and kept me intrigued to the very end.

What does Sam Dastor bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

His charming accent and the way he creates the various characters.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Most of the book warranted chuckles.

Any additional comments?

I highly recommend this book for an entertaining experience as well as insight into what is almost a different world.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

Eccentric and Charming Characters Abound

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Delightful listen

Words cannot express how much I love the Vish Puri series, especially on audiobook. The characters are charming, the mysteries are interesting, and the narration is very well done. Highly recommend this series of audiobooks...

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Nancy
  • St Charles, MO, United States
  • 01-06-13

Ok, but not great

I just couldn't keep my mind from wandering, then had to go back and listen to it again, and again.. To me, the story lines were blurry and undefined. I had a hard time following, of course, I may have missed a bit while my mind was elsewhere! And, too many characters, I kept mixing them up.

The description of the culture and people was terrific, though. I felt as if I was right there, and could see, feel and smell India. And, perhaps understand them a bit more as well.

The narration was great. His accents were wonderful and the pace was just right.

I'd say the series has potential, but I suppose, I need a bit more definition in my plots and investigations.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A Enjoyable Listen!

The story is of a servant who goes missing, the man who is accused of being responsible for it and the full of himself yet loveable detective who gets to the bottom of it all. From the nick only names of his staff and wife, to his love for delicious fried Indian treats Puri is very well flshed out as a character. He reminded me of someone I know in real life - right down to the step by step self congratulatory accounts of resolved cases he conveyed to his poor secretary. As the story went on, it did become predictable, but not boring, so that was a plus!
So no it was not shockingly surprising, but it was a solid offering (I wouldnt be surprised if this author used to be a technical writer - things are so concise and tied up in the end.), with well written characters (Mummy is my fave) and I liked the Poirot-like ending with everyone gathered around in the livingroom for the revelation. I also especially enjoyed the telling of the pre marital cases he worked and was working on. I certainly plan to have another listen at this authors other works!.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Entertaining and keeps you hooked.

What did you love best about The Case of the Missing Servant?

the characters!!! They're painted so vivid and given such distinct personalities, it was easy to follow and enjoy.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I love the main character. I like how he nicknames all his operatives. He gives the impression that he's not too smart, but he sneaks up on them with all of the answers.

What does Sam Dastor bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

It's difficult to get all the different accents and voices in your head when you read. I like how they didn't all sound the same.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

it made me laugh off and on.

Any additional comments?

loved it

1 of 1 people found this review helpful