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The Case of the Missing Servant (Vish Puri 1) [Paperback]

Tarquin Hall
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
RRP: 6.99
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Book Description

19 Aug 2010 Vish Puri 1

Meet Vish Puri, India's most private investigator. Portly, persistent and unmistakably Punjabi, he cuts a determined swathe through modern India's swindlers, cheats and murderers.

In hot and dusty Delhi, where call centres and malls are changing the ancient fabric of Indian life, Puri's main work comes from screening prospective marriage partners, a job once the preserve of aunties and family priests.

But when an honest public litigator is accused of murdering his maidservant, it takes all of Puri's resources to investigate. 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 widowed 'Mummy-ji' attempting to play sleuth when everyone knows Mummies are not detectives?

With his team of undercover operatives - Tubelight, Flush and Facecream - Puri ingeniously combines modern techniques with principles of detection established in India more than two thousand years ago -- long before 'that Johnny-come-lately' Sherlock Holmes donned his Deerstalker.

The search for Mary takes him to the desert oasis of Jaipur and the remote mines of Jharkhand. From his well-heeled Gymkhana Club to the slums where the servant classes live, Puri's adventures reveal modern India in all its seething complexity.

Frequently Bought Together

The Case of the Missing Servant (Vish Puri 1) + The Case of the Man who Died Laughing (Vish Puri 2) + The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken (Vish Puri 3)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow (19 Aug 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099525232
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099525233
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 168,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"The most original detective in years. Picture Hercule Poirot with an Indian accent, eating chili pakoras and riding in an auto rickshaw. Tarquin Hall has captured India in a way few Western writers have managed since Kipling. India's humor, commotion and vibrancy bursts from every page, exposing its vast, labyrinthine underbelly. Scintillating!" (Tahir Shah, author of The Caliph's House)

"A brilliantly written humorous tale that vividly captures the sounds, smells and foibles of modern India" (Ayub Khan Din, writer of East is East)

"Lively and quick-paced ... What Cara Black does for Paris, Hall achieves for India" (Kirkus)

"Tubby, ingenious and hilarious, Delhi's most trusted PI, Vish Puri, is not easily forgotten. Properly disdainful of unoriginal crime-busters like Sherlock Holmes and James Bond, his unique methods of detection deserve to be widely known and feted" (David Davidar, author of The Solitude of Emperors)

"Entertaining . . . Hall combines an insider's insight with the eclectic eye of a good foreign correspondent . . . The very opposite of the "exoticism" of which this kind of fiction is often accused. Instead of escaping into "another world", western readers are encouraged to see an unflattering reflection of their own values and desires" (Financial Times)

Book Description

Acclaimed writer Tarquin Hall makes his fiction debut with an Indian detective story

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Whodunit meets travel book, with the best of both, this is Gourmet reading at its most enjoyable. We plunge into the intimate life of Indian culture, with a truthful yet endearing look at this multilayered society where abject poverty rubs shoulders with enviable wealth. Like all expert storytellers the writer vanishes, we forget about Tarquin Hall and quickly empathise with Vish Puri, this most skilled detective, even if we are often appalled by his environment. He takes us with him into the bowels of Indian life where all is exposed: corruption, the honest man who fights on against the odds, the marriage market, the struggle of day to day life for rich and poor alike. No tourist will ever see this India, and perhaps that's the way I would like to keep it as it is far removed from the glossy Bollywood image that is often projected by travel brochures. Through Vish Puri's eyes we also become accustomed to the extremes of lifestyle as the background to everyday experiences. Soon it is the "crime that must be solved" that grips us while our senses are caressed by Indian colour and spices. Don't rush this book; savour it as a subtle and intriguing read, full of humorous observations. Ration your consumption or, far too soon, it will be over and all that will be left to do is bang on Mr Hall's door for another one. I hope he is already putting the finishing touches on volume two!
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Introducing the Indian Poirot/Ramotswe 26 May 2009
Uh oh, I've got another fun detective series to add to my "must read" list. The last time I felt this way was after reading Colin Cotterhill's The Coroner's Lunch, and before that it was Alexander McCall Smith's The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency. This series debut shares a good deal with those two -- such as compelling protagonist detectives, a keen sense of humor, colorful and finely depicted international settings, great supporting casts, and the right balance of dark subject matter and light tone.

Here, we are introduced to Vish Puri, who is (at least by his accounting) India's most renown and successful private detective. Although his bread and butter cases are essentially background checks on prospective grooms and bridges, he also tangles with more ruthless villains. This debut finds him checking out the suspiciously squeaky-clean groom of the daughter of a strict military man, ducking bullets from an unknown assailants, and taking on a seemingly hopeless missing persons case.

It's this latter plotline that gives the book its title and its main story, as Puri must locate a "tribal" servant girl who might be anywhere in India -- if she's even alive. Atmosphere simply oozes from the pages, whether Puri's downing pakora and cocktails at an old-fashioned colonial-style club, driving around the clogged Delhi streets, or poking around the remote mining center of Jharkhand.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have never been the biggest fan of crime fiction, but have been open to trying more crime novels after reading the excellent Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson. Clearly, Vish Puri and Lisbeth Salander could not be more different, but that is not an issue.

While I'm making my prejudices known, I should also state that I was born in Delhi, and although I've spent nearly all my life in England, I still have strong ties to India and like to return there whenever possible. Delhi is a place I know well and I was keen to see it as a vital element in a novel. Sadly, Hall's depictions of Delhi, while accurate, did not convey the character of the City. Certainly not in the way that William Dalrymple manages to, for example.

A Daily Telegraph quote on the back of the novel says, "readers may detect a calculated attempt to charm them, and are advised to yield quickly." Well, that is probably good advice: if you read the book, go with it, because on close inspection, it does have some issues.

Another Amazon reviewer, Parvati P, commented on the dialogue between characters not quite ringing true. I have to agree with her. If Hall had given some of the other characters a variation on the theme, it may have worked better. It was heartening to see that the Indian-isms were dealt with with affection rather as a joke, though. By way of comparison, Gregory David Roberts manages far better to convey the charm of Hinglish dialogue in Shantaram, evoking not only the delightful turns of phrase, but also the personality of the speaker.

By bringing a fresh eye to India, Hall does manage to include the servants' perspectives within what is essentially a middle class tale.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST READ... 3 Jun 2009
By J Mac
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book immensely, so much so, that I unselfishly gave my copy away at random on the bus!
As I feel this is a story not only be read but shared.
I urge discerning readers of detective stories or even those new to the genre to buy this title and enjoy.
Be transported to a modern India, with its vast cities and all the hustle and bustle, smells and sights and characters that entails.
Our protagonist is the likeable, chubby character called `Vish Puri', who runs a detective agency.
His routine cases mainly involve investigations of either the bride or grooms families of a proposed arranged marriage.
Throw in some villainous enemies and an interfering mother and life is far from humdrum!
At the centre of the story is the case of a top Lawyer who has been accused of murdering one of his maidservants.
Our detective and his undercover accomplices, must investigate and find the missing servant, whom if indeed alive could be anywhere, in a population as large as this, it is no easy feat.
Vish puri is highly acute, complex, and funny, with plenty of history. A well rounded character in every sense!
Mr Hall is a brilliant writer.
I loved the characters of Puri's accomplices, nicknamed, Face cream, Flush, Handbrake, Tube light and Doorstop!
I hope to see more of their characters in the next possible outing of Mr Vish Puri, `Owner of Delhi's most private' Detective agency.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Detecting Indian style
I enjoyed this.It is a tongue in cheek detective story set in India. The hero Vish Puri, is India's most private investigator and reminds me of Shamini Flint's Sikh detective. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
But not quite as good as the second one, the Case of the Man Who Died Laughing, which was a hoot! I would recommend both of them to anyone who likes a good but quirky murder... Read more
Published 8 months ago by P.A. SHEPARD
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic to join the golden age of detective fiction.
I like Dorothy L Sayers ...Lord Peter Wimsey
Agatha Christie.... Poirot and Jane Marple
Margery Allingham....Campion
Ngaio Marsh..... Read more
Published 12 months ago by T.C.
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and well written
A wonderful and brilliant book. I couldn't put the book down! Loved it so much so imagine my surprise when I realised it was written by an Englishman! Read more
Published 14 months ago by xAceee_
1.0 out of 5 stars one dimensional.
I just cannot seem to get into the story here... I love India and reading novels set there, but feel it is best done by Indian writers. Read more
Published 20 months ago by J. H. Van Veen
5.0 out of 5 stars Really clever, very sweet story with some delightful characters and...
I am a great fan of detective fiction and love Poirot, Marple, Sherlock, Wimsey etc. I recently read some of the 'No 1 Ladies Detective Agency', and Vish Puri (the hero of The... Read more
Published on 23 Mar 2012 by Meerkat
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvellous
A riveting window into India accompanied by glorious characters who are both endearing and amusing. The plot which is ingenious is secondary to the marvelous characters of Rumpy,... Read more
Published on 8 Oct 2011 by Simone
5.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric and pleasing Indian detective story
Written with some style and plenty of feeling for its Indian location this is a very entertaining detective story. It is not a heavy-weight story but none the worse for that. Read more
Published on 18 April 2011 by Noel
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-done mystery, delightful characters, a wonderful look at...
First Sentence: Vish Puri, founder and managing director of Most Private Investigators Ltd., sat alone in a room in a guesthouse in Defense Colony, south elhi, devouring a dozen... Read more
Published on 5 Jan 2011 by L. J. Roberts
4.0 out of 5 stars Nearly perfect
I loved this book until near the end where it became a Poirot type cliche. I hated that.
Until then it was a remarkable journey into a modern India which we can't see but... Read more
Published on 19 Nov 2010 by mysterioustraveller
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