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The Case of the Missing Servant: from the Files of Vish Puri, India's Most Private Investigator (Vish Puri Mysteries) Hardcover – June 2, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Vish Puri, the head of Delhi's Most Private Investigators Ltd., tackles a rather prosaic domestic case in this first of a projected series, the fiction debut of British author Hall (Salaam Brick Lane). Ajay Kasliwal, a lawyer who has brought cases against corrupt government officials, retains Puri to find a maid, Mary, who has gone missing from his household. Rumor has it that Kasliwal killed Mary because he got her pregnant, and when Mary turns up dead, the authorities arrest Puri's client. While the 51-year-old married detective, who could lose some weight and is affectionately called Chubby, has a certain quirky charm, the resolution of the mystery of Mary's murder is less than satisfying. Hopefully, a future installment will go into what sounds like a more unusual matter, the Case of the Missing Polo Elephant, for which Puri won the fictional Super Sleuth award in 1999. (June)
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Review

"India, captured in all its pungent, vivid glory, fascinates almost as much as the crime itself." - Entertainment Weekly

"A lively and quick-paced series debut." - Kirkus (starred review)

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Product Details

  • Series: Vish Puri Mysteries
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (June 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416583688
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416583684
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (183 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,656,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tarquin Hall is the author of the Vish Puri mysteries, set in India. The first in the series, 'The Case of the Missing Servant', was named by the New York Times as a Notable Crime Book and given starred reviews by Kirkus, Library Journal and Booklist. Hall divides his times between London and Delhi with his wife, Indian-born journalist Anu Anand, and their young son.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

88 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Terry Sunday TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Having traveled extensively in India, and having had a lifelong fascination with the subcontinent, I had high hopes for Tarquin Hall's "The Case of the Missing Servant." I expected this tale of Indian private investigator Vish Puri to evoke the sights, sounds and smells of India's teeming cities and dusty countryside. I expected it to offer the distinctive feel of the many religions and cultures that share the region. I even expected it to include mouth-watering descriptions of the distinctive spicy flavors of Indian food, ranked as one of the world's three greatest cuisines. I was not a bit disappointed. "The Case of the Missing Servant" does all of these things superbly. And, oh, by the way, there's a pretty good detective story in here as well.

Portly, pakora-munching, dapper-dressed Punjabi Vish Puri, called "Chubby" by his friends, would never be confused with Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe. He's more of a Delhi-based cross between Hercule Poirot and Perry Mason. The founder and managing director of Most Private Investigators, Ltd., Puri has observational skills rivaling those of "that Johnny-come-lately Sherlock Holmes," a detailed knowledge of 2000-year-old Indian principles of detection, and wide-ranging contacts in Indian society. Usually his work involves screening prospective matrimonial partners for the "arranged" marriages still common in India. But this time, aided by his team of undercover operatives nicknamed Tubelight, Facecream, Door Stop, Flush and Handbrake, Puri takes on the case of a servant girl who has gone missing from the household of a well-to-do Jaipur barrister. A badly beaten body dumped beside a roadway is identified as that of the missing girl, and evidence points to the barrister as her murderer. Can Puri clear the man who insists he's innocent?
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By J. W. Kennedy on May 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A servant girl goes missing; her employer is accused of murdering her. Meanwhile, a decorated military man does not like his granddaughter's fiancee; there is something "not right" about him. Vish Puri, owner of Delhi's "Most Private Detective Agency" is on the case!

The plot is satisfying, complex enough but not confusing, and the action moves quickly. There is some violence but not a lot of suspense. The mood overall is light .. not comedic, but definitely not very serious. The characters - particularly Puri himself - are very likable. He has a crew of investigative assistants with bizarre nicknames: Facecream, Tubelight, Handbrake, Flush ... sadly most of these characters are shadows. I want to know more about them, but the chameleonlike femme fatale Facecream is the only one with much of a developed personality.

Not knowing much about India aside from watching a few Bollywood movies, I found the setting to be quite fascinating. The social and political atmosphere of modern India is presented in a way that tells a lot without seeming like a "show-and-tell." The investigation takes Puri from the country clubs and mansions of Delhi's wealthy classes, to the squalor and poverty of uranium miners in Jharkhand. Conveys a very convincing sense of place.

The dialogue is fantastic. I was delighted by the peculiar phrasing of Indian English on almost every page. The book is packed with _bon mots_ which I may have to start using in conversations.

One only complaint: There is a glossary in the back of the book which provides definitions for roughly 100 Indian terms which are used in the book. I suppose this is a useful - perhaps even necessary - feature, but I found it to be terribly distracting to have to flip to the back and look up words every few pages. Footnotes would have been a better solution.

Fun and entertaining. Four and a half stars.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Jody TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Mr. Vish Puri ('Chubby' to his family, 'The Boss' to his employees), founder and director of Most Private Investigators, Ltd. (Confidentiality Is Our Watchword) is India's most celebrated detective, evidenced by his picture on the cover of India Today and the seven national and international awards he's won. He writes letters to the Times of India, scorns Sherlock Holmes as a Johnny-come-lately, favors Savile Row-made safari suits, silk dressing gowns, Sandown hats and to the consternation of his wife and doctor, greasy street food. His cases are mostly matrimonial in nature, families hire him to vet their sons' and daughters' intended spouses (the MPI, Ltd. offers a pricey Pre-Matrimonial Five Star Comprehensive Service) until he's called upon to look into the mysterious disappearance of a maidservant.

The inimitable Mr. Puri is as at home in the poorest villages as in the most opulent and Moghul-esque marble palaces. In his dogged pursuit of the truth, he slips undercover at the drop of a hat and engages in judicious larceny and blackmail. At the Most Private Investigators, Ltd, the client always comes first, though The Boss is entirely capable of holding back information that will damage a bride's one chance at marriage. In short, Mr. Vishi Puri is a most engaging and resourceful character on the order of Rumpole or Precious Ramotswe.

The Boss handles several cases at once with help from his fearless Mummy; his unflappable wife, Rumpi; assorted friends in high and low places; and a stable of investigators nicknamed Facecream, Flush and Handbrake.
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