The Case of the Missing Servant – A book review

I just finished this gem of a book by Tarquin Hall.  It is the first in a new series about the owner of a private detective agency and is set in Delhi, India.  I love the atmosphere and the peek into Indian culture.  The author spent a lot of time in southern Asia and the Middle East as a journalist and his wife is an Indian-born journalist, so I am hopeful that the setting is pretty accurate.  The lead character (Vish Puri) is a man who straddles the times, between the formal elder-culture of old India and the new India of call centers and computer-based businesses.  The new rich and the old rich.  Those that hold to the old traditions of living and caring for their parents and the new traditions of becoming more “Americanized”. 

There are three stories in this book.  The first is the case of the missing servant, and is very descriptive in describing the different attitudes and lifestyles between the different castes within India.  How these differences led to this sad story is the core mystery of the book. 

The second story is related to his main source of income, doing background checks for marriage suits.  The new India is becoming more isolated as the “rich” or upper middle class move into estates or walled communities.  The sense of neighborhood is being lost, you no longer socialize and get to know those who might be good marriage prospects for your children.  Plus there are so many new or rising upper class citizens that knowing their character is difficult, so you hire someone to do a background check!  This may at times be an arranged marriage, but also as in this story, it is simply a matter of making sure your daughter is making the right choice.

The third story is related to his relationship with his mother and how although he loves his mother, he doesn’t really think very highly of her intelligence (although he says it is a need to protect her).  This part was my favorite story of the book and how she resolves this mystery is very funny.

In other words, I highly recommend this book.  This was a selection for my Mystery Book Club, and a great choice.