Tarquin Hall's new "cozy", is a great read for those interested in India, its people, and its customs. "Died Laughing" is Hall's second mystery, and again features Vish Puri, a 50-something detective in Delhi who bills himself as India's "Most Private Investigator". He's often called on by public officials to look into crimes, as well as investigating for private clients. Puri also has a large family; wife, children, mother, and siblings as well as a large cast of "operatives", who often figure into Puri's cases. In both books, so far, Puri's mother, "Mummy" and his wife, "Rumpi" team up to solve a more home-grown crime among their friends. Vish, who wishes his wife and mother would just stop trying to do what he does, thankfully never learns about their crime-busting.
"Died Laughing" is a somewhat complicated story that involves magic, murder, and fake Swamis. Operatives "Face Cream", "Handbrake", and "Tubelight" join Vish as he follows it all to a curious end.
Hall writes in detail about Indian society. Reading his books is almost a learning experience. His plots are almost incidental to character development. I'm looking forward to number three in his Vish Puri series.
on June 22, 2010
I loved this book, the second in the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall, as much as Hall's first book in the series, "The Case of the Missing Servant". Both mysteries are set in India and the sights, sounds, and smells of India are immediate on every page. Vish Puri, nicknamed "Chubby" by his wife, loves to eat, and so lots of great Indian food is described as Vish falls often off the diet wagon. Vish Puri is a smart, funny and lovable character whose Indian/English dialog is spot on. The book includes a glossary of Indian words that I've enjoyed reading to expand my Indian vocabulary, but one can skip the glossary and just get the general meaning of the words from contextual cues. If you've enjoyed the "Ladies Detective Agency" series by Alexander McCall Smith and the "Marriage Bureau for Rich People" series by Farahad Zama, you'll love Tarquin Hall's delightful Vish Puri books.
And, our Most Private Investigator is still in his unique form (and size). Day-to-day life in India is still astoundingly different from that in America.
This is a murder mystery, so we have at least one body; at least one murderer; at least half-a-dozen suspects; and a variety of interesting people and places. Most of all, though, we have Puri and his cast of helpers in the search for the solution.
As in The Case of the Missing Servant, we also have Puri's multi-generational family members involved in their own investigation.
Hall's writing is so smooth that you never notice it. Not once does it get in the way of the story being told. That alone is worth five stars. The humor, red herrings and setting are great, too. But, as with his first Puri book, it's the characters that makes this so much fun.
The eleven page glossary was a very good addition. The book is quite readable by Westerners; but those unfamiliar with India might want to do a bit of study before jumping in. A reference search for India society will generate an amazing amount of useful information.
Lovers of classic mysteries, especially those by British authors, will feel right at home with the Puri books. I'm looking forward to the next installment.
on August 18, 2010
Aloha! Back comes Vish Puri with a new case - 'The Man who Died Laughing.' I did like the earlier book by Hall wherein he had introduced Vish Puri as the Most Private Investigator.
Vish likes to be addresses as Vish rather than his full name Vishwas because Vish sounds as 'wish'. His catch line is 'Confidentiality is our watchword.' Vish Puri has different kinds of cases to resolve - be it related to matrimonial alliances, background checks, frauds, murders, and so on.
'The Case of the Man Who Dies Laughing' is a case waiting to be resolved in Delhi, India. It's about the murder of Dr. Suresh Jha. One morning, as Dr. Jha was part of the 'laughter club' and part of the laughter exercise, he is suddenly killed. In the middle of everyone. And to everyone who witnessed the murder, it was a shocking surprise to find none other than the Hindu Goddess Kali appearing from nowhere to kill Dr. Jha. After the murder, Goddess Kali disappears into thin air! How is that possible at all? Goddess Kali appearing & killing a human - how??
Dr. Jha is a rationalist who brings the tricks of many fraud mystics out in open, therefore making many enemies. Not only are the fraud mystics have become his enemies, but also some staunch Hindu political parties. The main suspect is the self-proclained Godman who had challenged Dr. Jha once. Has this Godman stooped so low to start murdering people?
This case brings out the age old fight between superstition & rationality. There is difference between 'belief' and 'superstition'. Unfortunately, at times many people fail to differentiate between belief & superstition and that is when the problem begins.
What I liked about the book? I liked how this case was solved in simple English, and there was a flow maintained between each sentence, paragraph, and chapter. Knowing the Hindi language made it easier to understand many words; the glossary of Hindi terms at the end of the book was a boon for non-Hindi speakers.
I'm waiting for more Vish Puri mysteries to be out soon.
My rating would be 4.5/5.
on February 6, 2014
This is the second of Tarquin Hall's book about Vish Puri, the Indian private eye, and I have really enjoyed them. The characters are very well-rounded and enjoyable, from the new people each case brings to Vish's family and friends and employees. The stories are fun and full of interesting twists and turns. The view of Indian life is fascinating, and presented in a way that seems to be both objective and sympathetic. This is an "inside" view that is actually coming from a Westerner - and that always feels a bit presumptuous, but here the view of India presented by the characters seems to reflect a believable range of opinion. I also appreciate that Tarquin Hall can present unpleasant situations without dragging the readers' emotions through the mire.
The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing is the second installment in Tarquin Hall's Vish Puri series. I really liked The Case of the Missing Servant, and I had high hopes for this book. I am happy to report that Hall did not disappoint.
I won't bore you with a plot summary that the product page does so adequately already. I'll try to answer the question most on your mind, "Will I like this book?" I am interested in India after also having read Sea of Poppies (not a mystery) by Amitav Gosh. I think that Hall does a good job at giving readers a peak at the modern Indian culture. You will find instances where the older and younger generations clash over matters of respect and formalism that Puri's generation expects while the youth (especially the affluent) tend to rebel against it. Puri (with a physique that calls to mind Alfred Hitchcock) has an appetite that requires regular attention. Hall uses this to introduce readers to many of the foods of India, and the handy reference at the end of the book explains what many of them are. Hall also sprinkles in bits of Hindi and other Indian languages, but the guide at the end is there when context leaves you wondering. The cultural issues and food also give Hall a vehicle for a moderate amount of humor. The often quirky dialog does as well.
However none of this matters if the Hall failed to tell a good story. The narrative is well paced which is key. He strikes the balance between revealing enough without giving away too much. His characters (many holdovers from The Case of the Missing Servant) are also good. Chief among these is Puri, but I also enjoy some of the more minor characters such as his Mummy-ji. She and Puri's wife Rumpi are involved in an interesting secondary plot related to their secret "kitty parties". Mummy-ji is quite the sleuth herself. Tubelight and Facecream also make strong showings again along with Flush and Handbrake. Finally, I thought that Hall did a good job resolving the plot in a plausible manner.
In short you should give this a try if you like Indian culture, witty dialog, and a good mystery. It is not necessary to have read The Case of the Missing Servant first, but I highly recommend it as well as The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing.
on February 6, 2015
A fun book, and yes, it is takes place in a delightful and sensual setting--India. Think: a tongue-in-cheek novel full of irony and gentle social satire--beginning with the rotund and ever-hungry Vish Puri and extending to most of the other characters, including his extensive dedicated assistants and the laughing club itself. My favorite chapter was 7--a ladies' meeting held--as nearly as I can tell--only for gossip and a momentary redistribution of wealth. It reminds me of some of my favorite scenes from books, plays, and film--the "Pick a Little Cluck a Little" scene from "The Music Man"; the beauty shop and funeral scenes from "Steel Magnolias"; and, the Grand Dame from "The Importance of Being Earnest." Moreover, this meeting of an upper-class (the many levels of social distinction in India escape me) women's group provides a mystery within a mystery. The mysteries are complex and the solutions intriguing. I am ordering other novels starring the inimitable Vish Puri who sometimes is not a very private detective.
on December 29, 2012
While this is not my favorite in the Vish Puri series -- that would be The Case of the Missing Servant -- it is nevertheless a worthwhile read. The story trots along in good genre form, the detective is his usual overeating and put-upon-but-generally-upbeat self, and India is still deeply corrupt (and the Sandown-capped crusader sets a small corner of it to rights). Yet the characterizations are surprisingly shallow here. Even that firecracker Mummy is not as interesting as she is in the other books. Maybe it's just "second-book syndrome", where the writer feels forced to produce a book before he's ready? Whatever the reason, this story fell short of the others. It did make me hungry, though. I've been cooking a lot of Indian food since reading Hall's books.
(One snide and unnecessary aside Hall threw into the book still rankles, and it makes me respect him less. Pertaining to the plot thread about a scoundrel "Godman" -- a story arc that Hall spins out into some gross generalizations about "fake" spirituality in modern India -- Hall interjects a comment about a certain guru (more correctly a yogi) in Pune who he accuses in an indirect fashion of exploiting international followers through greedy merchanising. Anyone who practices yoga knows to whom he refers. That was a cheap, cheap shot, Tarquin.)
on February 13, 2011
Early one sweltering Delhi morning well known rationalist, Dr Suresh Jha, is stabbed to death while attending an open air laughter therapy session. What makes this crime unique is that the murderer is none other than the Hindu goddess Kali. While most of India believes a supernatural event has occurred, detective Vish Puri is convinced there is a rational explanation for the crime and sets out to find it. As we accompany him on his investigation and believe we are on the verge of discovering how the murder was staged, who committed the crime and what the motives were, events always take an unexpected turn and serious rethinking is required. To complicate matters Puri's irrepressible, feisty and shrewd mother has enlisted the help of his reluctant wife Rumpi to solve another mystery, showing that all detective work need not be the prerogative of experts.
Meanwhile Tarquin Hall draws us into everyday life in India. We witness the customs surrounding birth and death, watch the ancient Indian game of chaturanga, the forerunner of chess, walk through a Delhi slum where live street entertainers, belonging to a profession once honoured by kings, now harassed by police. We pass through a holy city to spend time in an ashram, because the distinction between real and pseudo-spirituality is at the core of this book.
Laid bare is the vulnerability of the human race. Because we have all inherited brains that evolved to protect us from danger, it is natural to act quickly and on minimal evidence. We are constantly at risk of becoming victims of deception. However there is hope for all of us.
For me the greatest strength of this book is that Vish Puri, the middle aged, overweight grandfather, who wears a safari suit and a Sandown cap and has one leg shorter than the other, is a metaphor for the ordinary human being who, with intelligence, hard work, patience, persistence and, above all, a pure heart can, with guidance, overcome even the most daunting obstacles.
I wholeheartedly recommend that you read this book.
I adore the Vish Puri mysteries. All of them are well written, provide a fascinating look at life in present day India and have solid stories and mysteries that are absolutely fun to read.
I will not summarize the plot again as that has been done to exhaustion by the other reviewers. But I will say that this whole series is really worth the read. I particularly enjoy the writing in these books. In an era where terribly written books are making the best seller list left and right, I appreciate the quality of writing in this entire series.
If you enjoy mysteries and enjoy learning about life in other countries, you will definitely enjoy the Vish Puri series.