Audiobook Review: The Case of the Missing Servant

Title: The Case of the Missing Servant
Author: Tarquin Hall
Narrator: Sam Dastor
Length: 8 hours, 27 minutes
Publisher: AudioGo
Genre: mystery
Copy for review was purchased by me

Back Cover Summary:

Watch out Alexander McCall Smith! Here comes the first novel by the highly acclaimed writer Tarquin Hall in an entrancing new mystery series set in India.

The portly Vish Puri is India’s most accomplished detective, at least in his own estimation, and is also the hero of an irresistible new mystery series set in hot, dusty Delhi. Puri’s detective skills are old-fashioned in a Sherlock Holmesian way and a little out of sync with the tempo of the modern city, but Puri is clever and his methods work.

The Case of the Missing Servant shows Puri (“Chubby” to his friends) and his wonderfully nicknamed employees (among them, Handbrake, Flush, and Handcream) hired for two investigations. The first is into the background of a man surprisingly willing to wed a woman her father considers unmarriageable, and the second is into the disappearance six months earlier of a servant to a prominent Punjabi lawyer, a young woman known only as Mary.

The Most Private Investigator novels offer a delicious combination of ingenious stories, brilliant writing, sharp wit, and a vivid, unsentimental picture of contemporary India. And from the first to the last page run an affectionate humour and intelligent insights into both the subtleties of Indian culture and the mysteries of human behaviour.

If I remember correctly, I grabbed this book during one of the many sales that Audible has had since the start of this year. I was willing to break my rule of audiobooks (only listen to books where I’ve already read/enjoyed the print version) since for five or seven bucks, there’s not much to lose. I’m happy I did, because this was a fun mystery with a great cast of characters, showcased to perfection by an excellent narrator. Had enough superlatives yet? If not, read on.

I have to say, if you’re expecting something tremendously different in the field of mystery novels, you may be disappointed. What makes this book unique is the setting (modern day India) and the tongue-in-cheek observations made about life in India and Indian society. The overall mysteries and the mini mysteries aren’t that hard to figure out and are often deduced by logical thinking and arranging the facts in order. If you’re a fan of Agatha Christie or other mystery novelists of that ilk I think you’ll find a lot to like, but if you were expecting some grand reconfiguring of the genre then you might not. Just saying.

The back cover summary does a good job summing up what the book is all about, so I’ll make my contribution by saying the usage of the classic elements of a mystery novel- gathering the clues, arranging the facts, etc. into something that was fun and engrossing with a new setting you don’t often see were the big selling points of the book for me. The narrator does an excellent job of giving characters individual voices and personalities and he kept the narration moving at a good pace. I think my favorite character is Mommy-ji, Puri’s mom, who makes a fair detective in her own right, although her son would never admit that in a million years. Decades of marriage to a police detective weren’t wasted apparently.

Even though I had figured out the whodunnits before the big reveals (it takes a lot longer to listen to a book than to read it in print) I was totally sucked in to this story. I’m training to walk a half marathon right now and this book was one that I listened to as I went around and around the jogging track at the park trying to build mileage. If you like fun mysteries, great characters, and excellent narration, get this book on your TBR.

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