Ayo Onatade is an avid reader of crime and mystery fiction. She has been writing reviews, interviews and articles on the subject for the last 12 years; with an eclectic taste from historical to hardboiled, short stories and noir films
The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing is the second book in the series by Tarquin Hall to feature Vish Puri a Most Private Detective set in India. Often called on by public officials to look into crimes as well as investigating for private clients Puri finds himself investigating the death of Dr Suresh Jha the founder of Delhi Institute of Rationalism and Education aka DIRE who has been murdered in full view of his disciples by the Goddess Kali. Although a believer of miracles himself, this time around Puri is rather unconvinced. As he looks into what truly happened Puri is confronted with the age-old dilemma between superstition and rationality. But if it was not the Goddess Kali that murdered Dr Jha then who was it?
Tarquin Hall has written a quirky going novel, which also makes it a pretty easy read. He is also very descriptive and one does get the impression that he has got an affinity for India, which is certainly very clear in the novel. At times one cannot help but think that India is around the corner. However, as much as I enjoyed this novel as it really does give you a social-cultural look at Delhi, I found it at times rather frustrating and I am not sure whether this is because my tastes lean more towards the noir. His characterisation could have been tighter and at times appeared to be somewhat over the top. The way in which he has also inserted Hindi phrases throughout that book is also a distraction, as one has to keep on looking at the glossary to work out what is being said. Footnotes would have been much better.
The Vish Puri series has been likened to the Alexander McCall series. However, I actually think that they are more akin to Shamini Flint’s Inspector Singh series and the Dr Siri series by Colin Cotterill. This is certainly the type of book to take with you on a trip to India as you could easily appreciate scenes and scents around you as you are in India. Entertaining, witty and comical, this is the type of series that will be enjoyed by readers who prefer their mysteries with whimsical charm rather than blood and gore.