The Case of the Missing Servant
by Tarquin Hall
Simon & Schuster

Cozy Contemporary Mystery

I did a Debut Showcase on this novel a while back and I always meant to go back and read it. Now, I finally have.

The Case of the Missing Servant is about Vish Puri, a Delhi detective. Unlike most detective stories that I’ve read, this novel is not about Vish’s origins as a detective. He is a well-established detective, highly competent, with contacts in every nook and cranny of Delhi life. He is portly and unassuming, and is happy to have people underestimate him–including his clients.

The cover above is wonderful. The picture of the traffic is not exaggerated–which will be a bit unbelievable to Western readers, who are accustomed to orderly traffic, with well-enforced traffic laws. One of the running gags in the story is Vish is trying to get his driver to abide by traffic laws–including following the speed limit laws–which is just a bit unreasonable to the driver, who lives on the verge of quitting over the matter.

I’m not as happy with this cover, for the UK. What were they thinking?

Anyway, the reader is immersed in the world of Delhi’s upper middle class, with its household servants, corrupt court systems, and gentlemen’s clubs. It’s fun. What it’s not is suspenseful. Don’t expect a nail-biter, here. The reader is presented with a small set of cases that Vish is involved in during the span of time it takes for him to solve the main murder mystery. This includes the investigation of a man for a potential marriage match, and the the investigation of Vish’s attempted murder (which he shrugs off) by his mother (who is considerably more upset by the matter). Oh, and the missing servant.

It is also fairly critical of some aspects of Indian life, especially it’s court system. Remember Bleak House? That novel was so bleak that I couldn’t get through it. As in Dickens’s England, cases take years to churn through the court system. People go broke while waiting for their cases to be solved, and they grow old and die to have the matter taken up by their children. Bleak? Yeah. Fortunately, Mr. Hall does not dwell on it overmuch, but I’m not sure if actual Indians will enjoy this novel.

I enjoyed this novel quite a bit, reading it from cover to cover in just a few days. The next Vish Puri book is out, The Case of the Man who Died Laughing. It’s on my buy list. If you like cozy mysteries, then this is one to check out.