Murder is no laughing matter.
Yet a prominent Indian scientist dies in a fit of giggles when a Hindu goddess appears from a mist and plunges a sword into his chest.
The only one laughing now is the main suspect, a powerful guru named Maharaj Swami, who seems to have done away with his most vocal critic.
Vish Puri, Indias Most Private Investigator, master of disguise and lover of all things fried and spicy, doesnt believe the murder is a supernatural occurrence, and proving who really killed Dr. Suresh Jha will require all the detectives earthly faculties. To get at the truth, he and his team of undercover operativesFacecream, Tubelight, and Flushtravel from the slum where Indias hereditary magicians must be persuaded to reveal their secrets to the holy city of Haridwar on the Ganges.
How did the murder weapon miraculously crumble into ash? Will Maharaj Swami have the last laugh? And perhaps more important, why is Puris wife, Rumpi, chasing petty criminals with his Mummy-ji when she should be at home making his rotis?
Stopping only to indulge his ample Punjabi appetite, Puri uncovers a web of spirituality, science, and sin unique in the annals of crime.
Ensconced on the backseat of his Ambassador with the windows rolled up and the air-conditioning working full blast, Vish Puri kept a wary eye on the crack in the cars windscreen. It had started off as a chinkthe work of a loose stone shot from the wheels of a speeding truck on Mathura Road that afternoon. But despite the sticky tape fixed to the glass like a bandage, the fissure was beginning to spread.
Delhis infernal heat pressed down on the windscreen, trying to exploit its weakness, determined to conquer the defiant pocket of cool air within. The detective imagined what it must feel like to be a deep-sea explorer, listening to your tiny craft creaking under thousands of tons of pressure.
That Monday in early June, the top temperature in the capital had been 44 Celsius, or 111 Fahrenheitso hot, the tarmac on the roads had grown pliable and sticky like licorice. So hot that even now, an hour after darkness had fallen, the air felt like ...
The contrasts and contradictions in modern Indian life lie at the heart of Tarquin Hall's mystery, not only in the reflections of his protagonist but also in the mystery plot itself. Past clashes with present, superstition collides with rationality, as Hall cleverly captures--even in the guise of a fairly breezy murder mystery--the essential nature of contemporary India.
(Reviewed by Norah Piehl).
Full Review (760 words).
Investigator Vish Puri just won't stop his quest for the elusive killer. Unless, of course, it's dinner time. Or lunch time. Or time for an afternoon snack. If you already like Indian food, The Man Who Died Laughing will make your mouth water. And if you haven't tried Indian food, here's a cheat sheet to some of the Most Private Investigator's favorite dishes:
Aachar: a pickle made of vegetables or fruits cooked in mustard oil and spices.
Aloo Tikki Masala: spicy friend potato patties
Barfi: a dessert made from condensed milk and sugar
Biryani: a rice-based dish made with spices, rice, meat, fish, eggs, or vegetables
Daal: a spicy lentil stew
Kadi: a tart, spicy curry made from gram flour (ground chickpeas) fried in ...
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