Dr. Suresh Jha, best known for unmasking fraudulent swamis and godmen, dies in a fit of giggles at his morning yoga class when goddess Kali appears from the mist and plunges a sword into his chest. The only one laughing now is the main suspect, a powerful guru named Maharaj Swami, who seems to have done away with his most vocal critic.
Vish Puri, India’s Most Private Investigator, master of disguise and lover of all things fried and spicy, doesn’t believe the murder is a supernatural occurrence. How did the murder weapon miraculously crumble into ash? To get at the truth, Puri and his team of undercover operatives—Facecream, Tubelight, and Flush—must travel from the slum to the holy city of Haridwar on the Ganges.
Tarquin Hall has evidently taken the criticism of his fun but simplistic first detective novel to heart; this second installment in the Vish Puri series is a head and shoulders above The Case of the Missing Servant, which was not too shabby in the first place. Where the first book was a fairly straightforward case, this one has at least a half dozen spectacular false endings that will keep you guessing until the very last minute.
Luckily, what hasn't changed at all is Hall's wonderful sense of authenticity in the dialogue. His ability to capture the flavor of New Delhi is impeccable, but a bigger treat is the return of narrator Sam Dastor, whose delivery of the rich dialogue is utterly unimpeachable. From English to Hindustani to Gujarati to Punjabi to even a little bit of ancient Urdu, Dastor does not miss a single beat while following the trail of Vish Puri, india's Most Private investigator, and it is his voice work that truly highlights what a good job Hall has done of showcasing all the comic wonder that northern india has to offer.
The case this time is much more complicated than just a missing servant. When "guru buster" Dr. Jha dies laughing in the face of an apparition of Kali, who slays him with a giant sword in a public park in the middle of the afternoon in front of dozens of witnesses, the alleged miracle appearance by the goddess touches off a whirlwind of speculation and debate between the rationalists and the godmen. it is too easy to accuse Maharaj Swami, the cult religious figure of the moment, who had long promised Jha he would get the "miracle" that was coming to him.
To assist him in solving this supernatural murder mystery, Puri enlists his team of various amusing undercover agents to infiltrate the confidences of his suspects and root out the evidence of the case. Thrown in for good measure is a minor secondary mystery involving the robbery of a ladies' gambling circle, presided over by Puri's own fairly witty wife and his overwhelmingly clever mother. Filled with criminal magicians, shady preachers, snooty academics, slimy bureaucrats, and a generous helping of police who are slow on the uptake, Hall's solid, classic characters are given fresh, spicy life thanks to such a charming narration. To read the book in print is to miss all the fun, as there is no better guide to Vish Puri's world than the flawless interpreter of Sam Dastor. Megan Volpert
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Fun and entertaining
- Coffee Lover