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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ah, the final years of the glorious Raj!
The days of British rule in India are nearing their end in 1922, when this (dare I say)cleverly plotted mystery by Barbara Cleverly takes place.

To outward appearances, things are well in hand. Just a few thousand colonial troops, along with their Indian military staff and a handfull of top British government officials control a population of millions. But...
Published on November 5, 2004 by Arthur C. Doyle

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but not brilliant
This is my first Joe Sandilands novel.

The story starts out at a rapid pace, giving you a flavour of Simla during the British Raj. Towards the end however, the plot tugs at the bounds of credulity and it goes completely downhill.

It is an entertaining story though, and well told one. Some of the dialogues are somewhat long-drawn, making it obvious...
Published on April 2, 2006 by Kaushik Sridharan


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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ah, the final years of the glorious Raj!, November 5, 2004
The days of British rule in India are nearing their end in 1922, when this (dare I say)cleverly plotted mystery by Barbara Cleverly takes place.

To outward appearances, things are well in hand. Just a few thousand colonial troops, along with their Indian military staff and a handfull of top British government officials control a population of millions. But there is trouble ahead. Ghandi is busy raising the consiousness of the Indian population, and Afghanistan is poised to make trouble along the northern border.

Ms. Cleverly immediately plunges the reader into a world where British administrators, like Lieutenant Governor of Bengal Sir George Jardine may as well be Rajahs. They live in mansions with a staff of servants, and continue to dress as they did in England, all the while living in a climate like that of Houston.

The climate is the reason why the government repairs in summer to Simla, a mountain town which provides relief from the heat in the days before air conditioning. Scotland Yard Commander Joe Sandilands has been invited to visit Sir George for a vacation before heading back to England. Sir George sends a Packard limousine to pick Joe up at the railhead. This shows Joe packs some juice, since there are only four cars in Simla and Packard is the car of status in the years before the Second World War. Joe offers a ride to a famous Russian opera singer, who is murdered on the road to Simla.

It turns out that Sir George has an ulterior motive in inviting Joe to visit. The beautiful Alice Conyers is the CEO of a successful trading company. A few months before, her brother, believed to have been killed in the war, had resurfaced. He was on his way to Simla to take over the family company when he was murdered (in 1922 the male heir still inherited, I assume).

Is it a coincidence that Alice's brother and the opera singer were shot and killed at the same location? Is this a murder mystery? Anyway, Sir George asks Joe to investigate the murders, and Joe must be some kind of investigator, since he is a Scotland Yard Commander at a ridiculously early age. After all, the brilliant Adam Dalglish was middle-aged before he made Commander!

All of the characters were extremely well drawn. All but Joe have distinctive, even colorful personalities. Even Joe might have a personality hidden somewhere, but this is the day of the British stiff upper lip.

The plot is quite inventive, and features an early case of identity theft. The ending is fine, though the last ten pages or so draw leisurely to a close. But all in all, as the British say, "Well done!"
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great second Sandilands novel!, November 19, 2003
By A Customer
If you didn't read the first book in the Joe Sandilands series, Kashmir Rose, don't worry. The book stands alone. If you did read Cleverly's first book, you'll like the second. You'll also notice some similarities.
Sandilands is on his way out of India when the governor invites him to a holiday in the Indian hill town called Simla. On his way up to the hills, he meets a Russian opera singer, who is shot before Joe's eyes. Not so coincidently, someone else was murdered in the same manner and in the same spot one year before. Joe investigates the mystery in which nothing is what it appears to be.
Cleverly's ability to capture the atmosphere of 1920's British India continues add a flavor to this book that you don't find in most mysteries. I spent some time in modern Shimla, so on a personal level, I enjoyed this book even more than the first.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic historical police procedural, October 27, 2004
In 1919 Alice Conyers reaches Paris, the first leg of her trek to India to take over the reigns of the Imperial and Colonial Trading Corporation. Since the death of her brother Lionel during World War I, she inherited 51% of the stock while her second cousin who she plans to marry owns the rest. However, their train falls into a ravine killing almost all on board. Alice continues on to India where she makes her firm a success.

In 1922 Northern India, Scotland Yard Detective Joe Sandilands has finished up his tour of duty in India and is now the guest of Sir George Jardine, Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. He plans to spend a month in the guest cottage at Simla at the base of the Himalayas. Joe gives a lift to Russian opera singer Feador Korosovsky and witnesses his murder in the car driving them to Sir George. He reports the homicide and learns that Lionel, Alice brother died in the same spot with the same MO. Sir George asks Joe to help the authorities. He does finding all roads lead to Alice and that train wreck.

Barbara Cleverly has written a fantastic historical police procedural at a time when India learned it was the equal of their occupier sand wants freedom from British rule. The exotic locale enhances the mystery and romance by adding an aura of danger to the westerners. The protagonist is an enigma who readers will not like; while the antagonist receives empathy though the choices that person made were criminal. RAGTIME FOR SIMLA provides readers with a sense of time and place during the final hours before the sunset of the British Empire.

Harriet Klausner
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but not brilliant, April 2, 2006
This is my first Joe Sandilands novel.

The story starts out at a rapid pace, giving you a flavour of Simla during the British Raj. Towards the end however, the plot tugs at the bounds of credulity and it goes completely downhill.

It is an entertaining story though, and well told one. Some of the dialogues are somewhat long-drawn, making it obvious that it's more for the benefit of the reader than something that two policemen would say to each other while discussing a murder.

Although the story is set in Simla, all the major characters are British. Apart from some scenes set in the streets of Simla, there aren't very many colourful descriptions of India. The story may well be set in the Scottish Highlands or somewhere suitably adventurous.

A few minor quibbles: Gandhi, when he is mentioned briefly, is spelled as "Ghandi" -- an irritatingly common misspelling by Western authors. Also, the father of one of the characters, Rheza Khan, who is a Pathan, is referred to as the "rajah". No Pathan chief would ever call himself a "rajah".

Overall, it is a good read for a relaxing weekend.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Transparent, August 28, 2005
I found the plot of "Ragtime in Simla" to be fairly obvious very early in the book. In addition, the writing was not intellectually stimulating and the dialogue didn't strike me as being of either the period or the place.

I had purchased this book because I had recently finished Laurie King's "The Game," which takes place in the about same time period and vicinity. Since "The Game" was definitely 5 stars, I was anxious to prolong the atmosphere with another book of similar subject matter and location. Unhappily, "Ragtime in Simla" was the wrong choice and so disappointing that I won't bother with any of this author's other books.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I Think It's Time for the Killer to Speak...", June 5, 2009
By 
R. M. Fisher "Ravenya" (New Zealand = Middle Earth!) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Ragtime in Simla (Joe Sandilands Murder Mysteries) (Paperback)
"Ragtime in Simla" is the second Joe Sandilands historical-mystery by Barbara Cleverly, a series of books set in the 1920s and that take place in various settings within the Indian British Empire. Joe Sandilands is a likeable detective, though perhaps a little too good to be true, and Cleverly's mysteries are full of surprising twists, vivid characterizations and an attention to historical detail that provides many fascinating tidbits of information.

It is 1922 and Joe Sandilands is traveling to Simla as the guest of the Governor of Bengal, his friend and superior, George Jardine. Simla itself is a British settlement in the Himalayan Hills that exists as a strange microcosm of England whilst infused with the culture and wildlife of the Indian people that surround it. On the train, Joe strikes up a friendship with a Russian opera singer called Feodor Korsovsky, and offers him a ride into Simla. However, when the two men stop to take in the view at Devil's Elbow, Korsovsky launches into song, only to be shot dead by a sniper right before Joe's eyes.

On arrival at Jardine's house, it soon becomes apparent that the man has an ulterior motive for inviting him to stay in his guest house when Joe discovers that there has been a near-identical murder at Devil's Elbow a year ago. Allied with Superintendent Charlie Carter, the two men make a good team as they begin their investigation into the deaths. The trail leads straight to the captivating business-woman Alice Conyers, who is incidentally Cleverly's best character.

"Ragtime in Simla" is a mystery that involves fraud, murder, blackmail, smuggling and betrayal - all that juicy stuff, set in brothels, antique stores, séances, theatres and the Indian wilderness. As always, there are rich descriptions of the time and place, creating a vivid setting for the mystery to unfold in. The story does drag on a bit toward the end, with a rather long, convoluted wrap-up, but "Ragtime in Simla" is a solid follow-up to its predecessor, The Last Kashmiri Rose (Joe Sandilands Murder Mystery).

A word of warning through: the books in this series can be read more or less out of order, but "Ragtime in Simla" should certainly be read *before* Folly du Jour: A Joe Sandilands Mystery, considering that an enigmatic character that features here turns up again in the later installment. Their presence in "Folly du Jour" gives away any of their secrets in "Ragtime in Simla," and so ruins many of the surprises presented here. I found this out the hard way, and as such, had much of this mystery figured out long before the reveal.

Not my favourite in the series, but as always, an entertaining, fascinating read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A finely woven mystery set in British Raj India's summer digs, December 6, 2009
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This review is from: Ragtime in Simla (Joe Sandilands Murder Mysteries) (Paperback)
An evocative tale from a time long gone, although the fabled town of Simla on the hem of the Himalayas still remains. The second in Barbara Cleverly's quartet of WWI Veteran & now Scotland Yard copper Joe Sandilands' 1920s Indian adventures. Delightful & charming, filled with atmospheric details & insights into the cultures & mores of diverse peoples, one of which came Home & raised me. Not for those infected with modern day political correctness.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read!, March 11, 2011
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This review is from: Ragtime in Simla (Joe Sandilands Murder Mysteries) (Paperback)
This was one of the best mysteries I've listened to in a long time--I had the audio version which was well read. I liked the unexpected twists, and every time I thought I had it figures out, another twist would send me down a different path. Well done. I'm looking forward to more stories by this author!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Historical Police Procedural, January 24, 2011
By 
zorba (Bala Cynwyd, Pa USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ragtime in Simla (Joe Sandilands Murder Mysteries) (Paperback)
This outstanding historical police procedural is as good a triumph of the genre as I've read in recent years. Barbara Cleverly is a masterful author and her exotic setting of Simla -- summer capital of the British Raj in the Roaring Twenties -- complements the solid development of a fascinating cast of characters. But, for me, the highlight of the book was the deviously creative plot, which twisted, turned and surprised me from page one till the end. Although there were one or two places where I had to suspend disbelief briefly, the book was a masterpiece. Cleverly is an outstanding author and this is only the second book in her Joe Sandilands series that I've read. I'm eagerly looking forward to the others.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sumptuous storytelling..., June 18, 2010
By 
myz "myz" (Pittsburgh, PA, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Ragtime in Simla (Joe Sandilands Murder Mysteries) (Paperback)
I had previously read Clevery's series with her heroine Laetitia Talbot, which I basically devoured, and was thrilled to find her other protagonist quite as addictive. I won't summarize the story, but it is set in India in 1922, which was a perfect setting, and Cleverly beautifull described it, giving me a sense of actually being part of the story. The mystery was clever, but not convoluted as many clever mysteries often are. Joe Sandilands is smart, charismatic, and charming, not at all the stiff war vet I was initially imagining he might be. I can certainly recommend this and others in the series for anyone looking for a mystery that is well written, researched, and plotted. Enjoy!
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Ragtime in Simla (Joe Sandilands Murder Mysteries)
Ragtime in Simla (Joe Sandilands Murder Mysteries) by Barbara Cleverly (Paperback - July 25, 2006)
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