The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing: A Vish Puri Mystery by Tarquin Hall
I always feel a twinge of guilt chuckling over murder mysteries – how can I be laughing in the midst of grisly, graphic slashings and shootings? But Vish Puri – “India’s Most Private Investigator” – is, for all his quirky habits (sneaking food when the wife’s not looking, spouting centuries-old history, nicknaming his most trusted colleagues, his occasional clashes with his Mummy), quite the entertaining star of his own series. Don’t ever compare him to Sherlock Holmes, but his eccentricities do make me think of the portly, equally idiosyncratic Hercules Poirot …
As soon as I finished The Case of the Missing Servant, I clicked over to Book #2 with a sigh of relief that Sam Dastor was again giving voice to Puri. Dastor also voices Book #3, (just checked), so here’s another grateful WHEW.
In Laughing, Puri tries to bridge the gap between science and the supernatural when famed Dr. Suresh Jha is apparently murdered by a levitating, vengeful goddess Kali during a very public park meeting of the good doctor’s laughing club. [“When you laugh … you change. And when you change, the whole world changes” – which means laughter could be the key to world peace!] In order to solve the case, Puri and his trusted operatives must infiltrate the hallowed halls of the powerful guru Maharaj Swami’s Abode of Eternal Love.
Meanwhile, Puri’s Mummy-ji and his wife Rumpi are busy solving a case of their own, after being the victims of uninvited, thieving guests at their last kitty party. While Puri would never admit it, he’s certainly not alone in his investigative prowess. Go Mummy, go Rumpi! Girl power all the way!
Tarquin Hall, whose earlier nonfiction titles won him acclaim and awards, is clearly having too much fun with Puri (his website mentions he’s writing mostly fiction these days). His intimate knowledge of Delhi (the city he calls ‘home’), his obvious familiarity with the very unique rhythms and grammar of Indian English (linguists claim that India is the country with the most English speakers in the world, by the way!), his clear appreciation for India’s foods (especially of the fried, spicy, salty variety!), all add a delightful authenticity to Puri’s antics. Dastor’s narration is an enhancing bonus.
Yeah, I know … at the end of these titles, we’re still talking gruesome murders. I guess if I’m going to (gleefully) partake, at least I can tout the health benefits of laughter, per the good (uhm …. dead?) doc. Uh-oh.