Devika Singh, a receptionist at the hospital in the town of Sanover, was not the most popular individual. She was having an affair with the chief doctor, she was instrumental in the suicide of a pregnant young girl… pretty much the complete package. So it comes as no particular surprise when she is found murdered.
The Superintendent of Police, Vishwanath Sharma, investigates and soon finds that the list of people with motives is much longer than he anticipates. As he delves into the personal lives of the primary suspects, and the links between them – both open and hidden – it seems that what seemed to be a straightforward case of murder may be far more complex than anyone anticipated…
Another debut novel that I have the pleasure of bringing to your attention via the blog, following Christopher Huang’s A Gentleman’s Murder, and another book that is very much in the style of the classic mystery – hey, that’s in the name of the blog! What a lucky coincidence. And Neena H Brar, just like Christopher Huang, not only lives in Canada but also, and probably more importantly to you, dear reader, is channelling Dame Agatha here, with a fairly finite set of suspects. But while Christopher was going for the puzzle plot with a healthy dose of character, here Neena is balancing the two aspects the other way round – a character-driven novel with a decent puzzle plot. In both cases, the two elements are strong, but the mystery here, while definitely worth your time, is a more straightforward affair. I suppose the best analogy here would be to compare A Gentleman’s Murder to Peril At End House and Tied To Deceit to The Hollow. Both strong books from Dame Agatha, but each with a different emphasis.
The author takes time as the tale develops to build up the atmosphere and the characters and the location – a town in the Himachal Pradesh state of India – makes for an unfamiliar setting for this reader at least, in a similar way to some historical mysteries. One word of advice – my review copy had a glossary at the back of the book which I didn’t discover until I got to the back of the book – I’d suggest the reader use it for some local words whose meanings were unknown to me and that I couldn’t always work out from the context of the text. That’s the problem with review copies – no contents at the beginning to let me know!
All in all, a satisfying debut novel that fans of character-driven mysteries will enjoy a lot. Well Worth A Look.