Monday, August 26, 2013

Book Review: The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken by Tarquin Hall

Title: The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken [A Vish Puri Mystery]
Author: Tarquin Hall
Publisher: Arrow Books [Random House India]
Pages: 368
Price: Rs 350
Genre: Fiction / Crime / Thriller / Mystery / Literary Fiction
Rating: 8/10
Format: Paperback

From the Publisher’s website:

Vish Puri is as fond of butter chicken as the next Punjabi. And when there's plenty on offer at the Delhi Durbar hotel where he's attending an India Premier League cricket match dinner, he's the first to tuck in.

Irfan Khan, father of Pakistani star cricketer Kamran Khan, can't resist either. But the creamy dish proves his undoing. After a few mouthfuls, he collapses on the floor, dead. Clearly this isn't a case of Delhi Belly. But who amongst the Bollywood stars, politicians, bureaucrats and industrialists poisoned Khan is a mystery. And with the capital's police chief proving as incompetent as ever, it falls to Most Private Investigators to find out the truth.

Puri is soon able to link Khan to a bald bookie called Full Moon and all the clues point to the involvement of a gambling syndicate that controls the illegal X billion dollars betting industry. The answers seem to lie in Surat, the diamond cutting and polishing capital of the world (where Puri's chief undercover operative Tubelight meets his match) and across the border in Pakistan, Puri's nemesis, the one country where he has sworn never to set foot. Or do they?

A certain determined, grey-haired lady with a unique insight into the murder believes that the portly detective is barking up 'a wrong tree.' Is Mummy-ji right?Is there more to the murder than meets the eye? And why, to make life even more complicated for Vish Puri, has someone tried to steal the longest moustache in the world - from right under the nose of its owner? Literally.

My thoughts:

I had read about Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall earlier but I never really paid attention to the fact that he was a British writer and journalist [read more about the author here]. Now that I have taken the plunge and read the third book in the series [though my first one], let me tell you what a feat the author has achieved in writing an essentially Indian book; with a desi, unconventional detective figure, who is in his early 50s. This book wonderfully captures the eccentricities of people from Delhi and the way Indians converse in English peppered with Hindi words. On one hand it makes the book really cute and warm, and on another it captures the cultural essence of Delhi perfectly. I must say, the author has done a commendable job.

At the centre of this well-written, suitably-paced, engaging book, is the death of a celebrity Pakistani cricketer’s father in the middle of an after-match Dinner, while he was in the company of film stars, industrialists and politicians. As chance would have it, this happens in front of ‘India’s Most Private Investigator’ Vish Puri. Just when he was itching to investigate the mystery, the case falls into his lap. I don’t want to dwell too much into the story but, trust me; there is enough to hold your attention. The story has shrewd politicians, sauve industrialists, underworld connections, blood diamonds, cricket, betting, while also connecting with the disturbing times during Partition.

Vish Puri’s Mummy ji [mother] takes it upon herself to investigate the murder in her own way. She believes that the answer lay in her experience during India’s Partition.

Also running parallely is another case about moustache theft of Satya Pal Bhalla, who holds the record of the longest moustache; and later of Gopal Ragi, the second-in-line for the title. The murder case has nothing to do with this case, but this one keeps us amused.

In short, this book offers so much more than just a murder mystery. As rightly summarized by the author himself in one of his interviews; “the idea is that you get to learn about India as well as read a good mystery. And there’s a healthy dose of humour as well.”

I highly recommend this to anyone interested in a good literary fiction.    

The author's first two books in the Vish Puri series are [which straightaway go to my Wish List]:

By the way, Vish Puri has a charming website too. Check it out here.

Here's also an author interview about this book, which was quite informative..

Review Book courtesy: Random House India
Image source: Random House India

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