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3 cosy mysteries reviews series (2): The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquinn Hall

Meet Vish Puri, India’s Most private investigator. Portly, persistent and unmistakably Punjabi, he cuts a determined swathe through modern India’s criminal cases. Aided by nick-named employees in his work – there’s FaceCream, Flush, TubeLight, DoorStop and HandBrake all named for a reason. Then there’s Puri’s wife Rumpi, his mother “Mummyji”, his secretary Elizabeth Rani, the servant boy Sweetu and Puri’s friend “Rinku”. Even Kasliwal has a nickname; Chippy. Puri and his family live in Gurgaon in a “white, four-bedroom Spanish-style villa with orange-tiled awnings, which they’d furnished from top to bottom in Punjabi baroque”. 🙂

Vish Puri genuinely combines modern techniques with principles of detection established in India more than 2000 years ago – long before ‘that Johnny-come-lately’ Sherlock Holmes.

In hot and dusty Delhi, Vish routine works comes from screening prospective marriage partners. From the knowledge I know about Indian culture, a marriage is a family affair and it is arranged. So it makes perfect sense that the parents would want to do proper investigation of the potential bride or bridegroom before they are married for life. Vish is enlisted by Brigadier Bagga Kapoor to investigate his future grandson-in-law Mahinder Gupta who he suspects of being not all that he seems.

When reputable lawyer Ajay Kasliwal is accused of killing his maidservant, Puri’s resources are properly put to the test. How will he trace the fate of the girl, known only as Mary, in a population of more than one billion? Who is taking pot shots at him and his prize chilli plants? And why is his mother insisting on playing sleuth to find out about the shooter, when everyone knows Mummies are not detectives?

About the plot, Tarquinn introduces red herring and steered me off a different path about Mary. With marriage and reputation plays such important role in the Indian society, someone would take the matter in their own hands and did ‘that’ to Mary. The conclusion was convincing.

As a cosy detective novel, this book has everything that I love so much in the “No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” series. Tarquinn Hall peppers the story with Puri’s observations on Delhi , Indian society and government which make interesting reading. The bureaucrat, the Technopreneur, the noveau riche, and the Western influence. The search of Mary takes Vish to the desert oasis of Jaipur and the remote mines of Jharkhand. From the well-heeled Gymkhana Club to the over-crowded slums. His adventures reveal India in all its complexity.

The mystery is quintessential Punjabi and written dialogue in Punjabi English and Indian words. Not to worry because this is probably the one and only cosy detective story which has 13 pages of glossary for Indian words! How about that?! 🙂

Here are some of Indian famous actors poster boys mentioned in Mary’s maid quarter:

Shahrukh Khan

Salman Khan

Hrithik Roshan

While growing up I watched Indian movies starred by the first two actors above. Hrithik Roshan is considered the newer generation of Indian actors.

Tarquinn Hall is British, married an Indian wife and lives in Delhi. Still, coming from an outsider of the culture I thought the accurate depiction of everything North Indian is very endearing. This novel has enough charm, cultural richness, mystery, humour to enthrall me and I’m please to say I have found a better match than the “No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” series! Absolutely scintillating, I’m going to read every book in this series.


I am reading this for the Mystery & Suspense reading challenge.

Paperback. Publisher: Arrow Books 2010; Length: 312 pages ; Setting: Contemporary India.  Source: Reading Battle Library. Finished reading on: 11 June 2011.

Other views:

S. Krishna: I can’t recommend The Case of the Missing Servant highly enough.  Whether you’re itching for a new detective novel or just want a taste of bustling India, this book is fun, smart, well-written, and entirely absorbing.

Review Room: “The Case of the missing servant” was a very enjoyable read.

Nishi Take: However, in spite of this flaw, this is a book well-worth reading. Highly recommend!

Paper Spaceships: Hall places clues rather subtly, and the clues really only offer slight hints.  The Case of the Missing Servant really kept me guessing right up to the end of the story.  Even when the case was solved, I was a bit dumbfounded at how Puri managed to piece together what he had.  Maybe I was inattentive to some clues?  I am not sure. I was so pleased with Tarquin Hall’s story that I joined the Vish Puri fan-page on Facebook!  Hall has a written a second Vish Puri novel.  It is entitled The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing.

About the Writer:

Tarquin Hall is a British writer and journalist. He was born in London, 1969, to an English father and American mother. Hall has spent much of his adult life away from the United Kingdom. He is the author of three books and dozens of articles that have appeared in many British newspapers and magazines, including the Times, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, Observer and New Statesman. He has also worked in TV news and is a former South Asia bureau chief of Associated Press TV. His chosen subject matter has proven extraordinarily diverse. He has written features on Wilfred Thesiger, Texan rattlesnake hunters, the Taliban and British-Asian Urdu poets. Hall’s exclusive reports include a profile on Emma McCune, an English woman who married Southern Sudanese guerilla commander Riek Machar; the draining of Iraq’s marshes by Saddam Hussein, and a one-on-one with former Kurdish PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in a Syrian safehouse.

Hall’s books have received wide acclaim in the British press. His second, To the Elephant Graveyard was heralded by Christopher Matthew in the Daily Mail as “a classic”. His third, Salaam Brick Lane, about Brick Lane in the East End of London, was described by Kevin Rushby in The Guardian as “charming, brilliant, affectionate and impassioned.” Salaam Brick Lane recounts a year spent above a Bangladeshi sweatshop on Brick Lane.

In 2009, Hall published his first mystery novel The Case of the Missing Servant introducing the Punjabi literary character Vish Puri, India’s Most Private Investigator. Hall′s second novel in the Puri series, The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing, is released on 15 June 2010. The sequel follows Puri as he unravels who really murdered a renowned Indian scientist.

Hall currently divides his time between London and Delhi. He is married to the Indian-born BBC reporter and presenter Anu Anand. They have a young son.

See Author Website: Tarquin Hall

About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.


10 thoughts on “3 cosy mysteries reviews series (2): The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquinn Hall

  1. I have hesitated to try this series, because I have concerns re: Hall as an Westerner writing a Punjabi character for a Western audience. I’m glad to hear that you liked his portrayal of North India.

    Posted by Eva | June 25, 2011, 12:47 pm
    • Eva,
      Hesitate no more! Hall is absolutely brilliant and have you smell and see India in all its galore and confusion.. Let me know when you read it. Thanks for dropping by!

      Posted by JoV | June 26, 2011, 1:16 pm
  2. Wonderful review, Jo! Glad to know that you loved this book! I have been hearing of this series for a while, and now after reading your review, I want to try it. Interesting to know that you have seen movies starring Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan 🙂 Which ones are your favourites? For some reason I thought that Tarquin Hall was a writer of Indian origin – because his first name sounded very Indian. Interesting to know that he is actually British, but with an Indian connection. An odd thing happened to me last week – I checked your blog for a new book review, and after seeing the first part of the top post’s title, I felt that you haven’t written a new post. But after the same thing happened a few times, I thought that something was wrong, because my friend Jo isn’t quiet for so long. And so I thought I will read the topmost post’s title more carefully and then I discovered that there are two new posts, since I last read one, and they are all post of the cosy mysteries review series 🙂

    Posted by Vishy | June 26, 2011, 7:06 am
    • Vishy,
      I’m not very good in remembering Hindi names, so a lot of movie titles went over my head. The recent one I saw of Sharukh Khan on British TV and went forth to buy the DVD is Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna with Amitabh and Abishek Bachan (the former another familiar figure in the old Hindi movies, alongside Sashi Kapoor) and my first movie of Rani Mukherji. Between my childhood and recent viewing experience of Hindi movies, it is likely to be about 2 decades of void. But if you give me a movie anytime I’ll still watch it! 😉

      hmm… that will teach me using the same prefix for my blog post title, sorry about the confusion my friend!

      Posted by JoV | June 26, 2011, 1:22 pm
  3. Ha! You bet me to that … hehe. I have borrowed a copy a few weeks ago. But Cynthia has started reading it. So lady first!

    Posted by Wilfrid Wong | June 28, 2011, 1:58 pm
  4. So glad you loved it, too! Are you a cosy crime convert now? 😉

    Posted by Bina | June 29, 2011, 5:03 pm


  1. Pingback: Halfway there.. It’s a wrap: June 2011 « Bibliojunkie - June 30, 2011

  2. Pingback: It’s wrap-up (although a little late!): October and November 2011 « Bibliojunkie - December 7, 2011

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City

JoV's favorite books »
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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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