Early one sweltering Delhi morning well known rationalist, Dr Suresh Jha, is stabbed to death while attending an open air laughter therapy session. What makes this crime unique is that the murderer is none other than the Hindu goddess Kali. While most of India believes a supernatural event has occurred, detective Vish Puri is convinced there is a rational explanation for the crime and sets out to find it. As we accompany him on his investigation and believe we are on the verge of discovering how the murder was staged, who committed the crime and what the motives were, events always take an unexpected turn and serious rethinking is required. To complicate matters Puri's irrepressible, feisty and shrewd mother has enlisted the help of his reluctant wife Rumpi to solve another mystery, showing that all detective work need not be the prerogative of experts.
Meanwhile Tarquin Hall draws us into everyday life in India. We witness the customs surrounding birth and death, watch the ancient Indian game of chaturanga, the forerunner of chess, walk through a Delhi slum where live street entertainers, belonging to a profession once honoured by kings, now harassed by police. We pass through a holy city to spend time in an ashram, because the distinction between real and pseudo-spirituality is at the core of this book.
Laid bare is the vulnerability of the human race. Because we have all inherited brains that evolved to protect us from danger, it is natural to act quickly and on minimal evidence. We are constantly at risk of becoming victims of deception. However there is hope for all of us.
For me the greatest strength of this book is that Vish Puri, the middle aged, overweight grandfather, who wears a safari suit and a Sandown cap and has one leg shorter than the other, is a metaphor for the ordinary human being who, with intelligence, hard work, patience, persistence and, above all, a pure heart can, with guidance, overcome even the most daunting obstacles.
I wholeheartedly recommend that you read this book.