- Series: Vish Puri Mysteries (Paperback)
- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (June 21, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1439172382
- ISBN-13: 978-1439172384
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 105 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #348,464 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing: From the Files of Vish Puri, Most Private Investigator (Vish Puri Mysteries (Paperback)) Paperback – June 21, 2011
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“Delightful . . . Hall splendidly evokes the color and bustle of Delhi streets and the tang of contemporary India.” —Seattle Times, “Best Crime Novels of 2010”
“Hall writes amusing mysteries…[his] affectionate humor is embedded with barbs.” —Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
“Modern India, in all its colorful squalor, provides a vivid backdrop for this well-crafted whodunit.” —Jean Westmoore, Buffalo News
“Delightful . . . a terrific book with wonderful puzzle plot and a great setting.” —The Globe and Mail
“Hall takes the reader into a very Indian, very Delhi web of spirituality, sin, slums, and power broking, but all treated with a veneer of wit and intelligent absurdity.” —India Today
“Splendid . . . Entertaining . . . Vish Puri is large, constantly hungry, a perpetual victim of Delhi’s traffic congestion, and a wonderfully engaging P.I. . . . A joy to read.” —The Times (London)
About the Author
Tarquin Hall is a British author and journalist who has lived and worked throughout South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. He is the author of The Case of the Missing Servant, The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing, and The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken, along with dozens of articles and three works of nonfiction, including the highly acclaimed Salaam Brick Lane, an account of a year spent living above a Bangladeshi sweatshop in London’s notorious East End. He lives in Delhi with his wife, Indian-born journalist Anu Anand, and their son.
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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.
India's #1 or #2 private investigator
The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing is the second book in the Vish Puri series. Puri is a well-to-do man of about 60 years of age who bills himself as India's "Most Private Investigator." He is of Punjabi extraction and speaks that language but is also conversant in Indian English as well as Hindi. He switches smoothly from one to another with frequency. Puri is overweight, egotistical, pompous, and walks with a cane because one of his legs is shorter than the other—and he may be even as brilliant as he thinks he is. As we learn in The Case of the Missing Servant, the first book in the series, Puri regards himself as either India's #1 or #2 private investigator, depending on the mood he's in.
The man who died laughing
In The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing, Puri sets out to solve the murder of a friend and former client who died under mysterious circumstances. Along with another half-dozen other men, Dr. Suresh Jha, the "Guru Buster," was attending an early-morning session in a Delhi park of the Rajpath Laughing Club. (Yes, there are such things in India, and they're popular.) They were gathered in a circle laughing, often without any reason except that they believed it was healthy to do so. Suddenly, an apparition appeared in their midst: the four-armed goddess Kali. Smoke billowed up from their feet, and suddenly Kali drew a sword and murdered Dr. Jha, then disappeared as though into thin air.
But Puri is undaunted. As he remarks to the man who runs the Laughing Club, "Allow me to assure you, sir, Vish Puri never fails . . . No amount of hocus or pocus or jugglery of words will prevent me."
"I will perform a spectacular miracle"
However, it's bad enough that Dr. Jha was murdered. Even worse, he had publicly denounced one of the most powerful men in the country as a charlatan and a common criminal on national TV. Maharaj Swami, known as "Swami-Ji" to one and all, was revered as a living saint by 30 million people. In their face-to-face confrontation, Swami-Ji had vowed that "within the month, I will perform a spectacular miracle that will leave no one—not even atheists like my friend Dr. Jha here—in any doubt about my powers."
Investigating Dr. Jha's murder will bring Vish Puri and his faithful staff into dangerous conflict with Swami-Ji, the politicians the "Godman" has bribed, and India's small community of professional magicians. The case will also take Puri from one end of Delhi to another, from the most poverty-stricken neighborhoods to the most elegant homes.
A celebration of Indian cuisine
The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing is cleverly plotted and suspenseful to a fault. It's also a showcase of Indian cuisine. Here, for example, is how the author describes Puri's wife, Rumpi's, preparation for a meal: "First, she added, jeera, chili and turmeric powder to the boiled aloo and then mixed the atta in a bowl with a little water until it turned into a dough. Then, while Monika mopped the floor, Rumpi heated her tava and retrieved the ghee from the fridge." Now, I don't know about you, but I didn't understand a word of that. Had I been passionately interested in Indian food, though, I might simply have turned to the back of the book. There is an extensive glossary of words in Indian languages there. A lot of them are about food.
About the author
Tarquin Hall is an English journalist and writer who has spent most of his life living abroad. In addition to the four Vish Puri novels that have appeared as of this writing, he has published four nonfiction books that reflect his extensive travels in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
"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.
(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.)