As I’ve been preparing to go on my first trip to India (leaving this coming Tuesday), I’ve augmented my more academic preparations with some enjoyable reading of novels and such.  I hope this review convinces you to get hold of Tarquin Hall’s “Vish Puri” mysteries — they were worth staying up late to read, IMHO.  The two books currently in the series are:

The Case of the Missing Servant, and

The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing

As someone who has not yet been to India, but who is heading there within the week, I was very interested in reading some books about India.  I knew that I should read some history and some highbrow literature.  But I confess that I’m a diehard mystery fan, who finds it easier to swallow background knowledge when it is surrounded by a good story.

Such is the case with the two mystery novels by Tarquin Hall (, which introduce the reader to a new sleuth:  Vish Puri, a Bengali PI who owns and heads Most Private Investigators, Ltd.  Puri is overweight, very fond of all kinds of Indian foods, and completely confident of his own brilliance and ability to solve any mysteries that come his way.  He bristles at being compared to other sleuths like Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot, never failing to recollect that the tradition of sleuthing and investigation in India preceded these fictional stories by centuries and centuries.  Puri’s wife, Rumpi, and his mother, Mummy-ji, are just as engaging as Puri himself.  Puri’s employees and associates in his private investigation business round out the character list in these two books, each of which focuses on a main mystery and some side jobs investigated by Puri or others in the novels.

I found the author’s skills as a dialogue writer to be most impressive in both books: he writes dialogue the way a local person might speak English whose first language is Punjabi or Hindi.  Each book also includes a most interesting Glossary at the back that explains non-English words, from food names to family nicknames to swear words.  These elements, combined with the “good read” of an entertaining mystery and lots of local color, combine to make for a most enjoyable reading experience.  While the first book is less skillfully written (as mysteries go) than the second, both are well worth diving into.

I was sorry to finish the second book, and to find out that a third book does not yet exist.  Take a look at these for some fun reading and a painless way to learn a bit about Indian culture, food, and language. 

The Books Are:

The Case of the Missing Servant, by Tarquin Hall (2009); and

The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing, by Tarquin Hall (2010).