Featured Author Review: The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken: A Vish Puri Mystery by Tarquin Hall

 

The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken: A Vish Puri Mystery
Tarquin Hall
Simon & Schuster
ISBN-10: 1451613156

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Dubbed ‘a wonderfully engaging P.I.’ (The Times, London), Tarquin Hall’s irresistible protagonist Vish Puri has become an international favorite through a series that ‘splendidly evokes the color and bustle of Delhi and the tang of contemporary India’ (Seattle Times). Now the gormandizing, spectacularly mustachioed sleuth finds himself facing down his greatest fears in an explosive case involving the Indian and Pakistani mafias.

When the elderly father of a top Pakistani cricketer playing in a new multimillion-dollar cricket league dies frothing at the mouth during a post-match dinner, it’s not a simple case of Delhi Belly. His butter chicken has been poisoned. To solve the case, Puri must penetrate the region’s organized crime, following a trail that leads deep into Pakistan—the country in which many members of the P.I.’s family were massacred during the 1947 partition of India. The last piece of the puzzle, however, turns up closer to home when Puri learns of the one person who can identify the killer. Unfortunately it is the one person in the world with whom he has sworn never to work: his Mummy-ji.

With riotously entertaining prose, a boisterous cast of characters, and a pitch-perfect sense of place, Tarquin Hall has crafted a gripping whodunit that takes us deep into Indian history and society. He brings a hugely appealing culture to life with all its sights, sounds, smells, foods, and complexity. As the title implies, The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken is a succulent read by a writer at the top of his game.

In his most daring assignment yet, Vish Puri, India’s Most Private Investigator, infiltrates the dangerous world of illegal gambling to solve the murder of a high-profile Pakistani on Indian soil.

The Indian tourist commission really owes Tarquin Hall a debt of gratitude. Perhaps, even a fat check. In his Vish Puri Mystery series, Hall is able to exhibit the unusual, (to anyone not from India or familiar with its vernacular) and the sublime that the country has to offer. But with this installment of the series, The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken, Hall has stepped a bit further out into the cultural vibrancy that India can claim. Namely: cricket. The father of a Pakistani cricket hero has been murdered and Puri, “India’s Most Private Investigator,” tries to find the culprit and is led into the world of illegal gambling, blood diamond smuggling and thrown cricket matches.

But finding the murderer, who poisons yet another victim, isn’t the solitary mystery to unravel. There is also the peculiar subplot of the vanishing mustaches, a case that the investigator’s aptly capable Mummy-ji is eager to unravel.

There are also political hints in the novel, mentions of the 1947 partition of India, that led to Pakistan’s statehood and the massacres that resulted in the partition and Vish Puri, who is wary of venturing to Pakistan in an attempt to follows clues, returns from the trip with a broader, more accepting attitude of the Pakistani people.

The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken is a welcome addition to the Vish Puri series. Hall’s strength is the colorful characters he creates and the brilliant, funny background his characters thrive in. These novels are clever, humorous without relying on puns or common mystery tropes and are a testament to Hall’s very unique vision of the world and the characters in his own life. The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken gives the reader something unexpected: a subtle narrative of the historical context present in India and Pakistan and lush imaginings of the intricacies of Indian life.

Highly Recommended

 

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