February 22, 2020
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More Sauce!

Hall's writing is refreshingly deft and he has mastered the unique syntax of middle-class Delhi English

More Sauce!
The Case Of The Missing Servant
By Tarquin Hall
Hutchinson Pages: 320; Rs. 425
For those addicted to good crime writing, there is no greater joy than a new fictional sleuth with villains to catch and cases to solve. As with Bollywood blockbusters or Alphonso mangos, satiation is not possible. Yet so many detective novels disappoint, each new work is read tentatively, in search of that elusive literary tipping point when we engage seamlessly with characters, plot and writing and embody that most bookish of cliches: We can’t put it down.

Tarquin Hall’s The Case of the Missing Servant was glued to my hands from the start. That’s when we meet 51-year-old Vish Puri—protagonist and owner of Khan Market’s ‘Most Private Investigations’—happily devouring a box of chilli pakoras, carefully erasing evidence of unhealthy eating from his doting wife, Rumpi. A Punjabi to his core, Puri is punctilious and proud, a master of disguise and bestower of cringe-worthy monikers like Tubelight, Facecream and Door Stop. Puri’s sleuthing takes him across contemporary Delhi and beyond—to Jharkhand’s tribal belt and Jaipur, where a family engages him to track down a mysteriously absent maid. Those investigations unearth dark secrets and have unintended consequences. Along the way lurk assassins, temptresses and plenty of Royal Challenge whisky.

Hall’s writing is refreshingly deft and he has mastered the unique syntax of middle-class Delhi English. Most promisingly, it’s clear Vish Puri has many cases to come and more chilli pakoras to devour, whatever Rumpi might say.

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