Book Review: The Case of the Love Commandos

Love commandos

Our country , India, offers all things exotic and out-of-the-ordinary to the foreign palette. India is a land as full of mysteries as it is of corroded ideas and conventions. Few writers, from across the seas, have empathized with us, with our feelings for compassion and our historical past. Tarquin Hall is a British author, travel writer and journalist, who lives in our capital, happily married to the Indian-born BBC reporter and presenter . Hall’s books, especially his second, To The Elephant Graveyard and Salaam Brick Lane had received huge critical acclaim . Obviously, we are reminded of his fellow writer, William Dalrymple, who despite being a Brit, has delved deep into the glorious Indian culture and its heritage.

The Case  of the Love Commandos by Tarquin Hall , is the fourth in the writer’s Vish Puri Mystery Series. The other three being The Case of the Missing Servant, The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing, and The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken. Vish Puri is the much-loved super sleuth who owns his Most Private Investigators Ltd., with office at Khan Market In New Delhi. His executive secretary, Elizabeth Rani, is the Indian Poirot to Mma Ramotswe‘s African Marple. The Case of the Love Commandos opens with a Prologue. The action takes place at the University of Agra premises, where Tulsi Mishra, daughter of Vishnu Mishra, a Thakur is trying to elope with Ram Sunder, who is a Dalit boy. Ram is abducted and it is left to the Love Commandos, who are basically a charity organisation, trying to bring about inter, and often opposing castes’ marriages amidst torrid oppositions, to track him out. It is here that Laxmi, aka Miss Padma Jaiteley, or Facecream as the private investigator calls the numero uno of the Love Commandos, takes the help of Vish Puri, who is about to embark on a journey to the Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu, with his family.

Puri’s senior executive at his agency is Tubelight, who was formerly  a thief, and his driver is Handbrake. There are two parallel stories running along the breadth of the book. One, that of tracking down of the Dalit boy, Ram, by Vish Puri himself and second, that followed by his equally efficient mother, the ubiquitous Mummyji.

Vishnu Mishra, Tulsi’s father, had sworn to kill Ram, who is later abducted. There are references to the prevalent and burning issue of the caste system, which is all the more  firm in rural parts of India. In a way, Vish Puri becomes the alter-ego of the author himself, whereby the latter expostulates on the social order and the need to get it straight. In the meanwhile, Ram’s mother, who had worked as a midwife in the General Hospital of their village – Govind – is found murdered and her body is found dumped in a canal close to Mishra’s ancestral home. So the mystery, instead of being a simple one –  that of annulment of love due to parents’ dissent  –  becomes really complicated and gets the readers riveted to its plot.

DNA tests on poor, illiterate people, where active politics and the evil intents of political leaders are involved can only be deemed as sycophantic to please superior powers (read political ones). A Bengali scholar-cum-scientist, dies in a mysterious accident and detailed analysis of her phone’s SIM card reveals that she had contacted Ram Sunder in her last  mortal call.

Minute threads are interwoven into  this web of addictive mysterious thriller, which are deftly untangled at the very end. But like all good mystery novels, the resolution of the plot leaves the reader with a sense of pure satisfaction. Vish Puri has some  keen competition from his chief rival, Hari Kumar, head of Spycatcher Investigative Services. The latter  too plays an active role in the book . But obviously, it is Vish Puri’s acumen that brings this mystery-cum-social-comment to a final close.

After the book has almost ended, as an epilogue, some Mouthwatering Dishes from the Vish Puri Family Kitchen have  been appended. These include recipes of some delectable dishes to suit the gourmets amongst readers, who can as well try them out from the comfort of their homes. That Vish Puri, sleuth with traits to make him endearing to all, is a gastronome, became evident right at the beginning of the first chapter of the book. Homemade papri chaat drizzled with yoghurt and tamarind chutney spiked with pomegranate, black salt and just the right amount of fiery coriander –chilli sauce –  description enough to salivate our taste buds.

Treating the book on a less serious note, the reader would often wonder at the ingenuity of the author’s treatment of his central characters. In a reversal  of the Ramayana, here it is Ram who is abducted. I often wondered whether this twist in the tale was intentional, or was it mere coincidence? On the whole , it is a book for lovers of mystery, thrillers , socio-political writings as well as romance put together. Readers, you are going to love reading this book!!

Title: The Case of the Love Commandos
Author: Tarquin Hall
Publisher/ Imprint: Random House
Pages: 310
Genre/ Sub-Genre: Fiction/ Mystery
Rating: 4.50 of 5
Reviewed for: Publisher

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