The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken features India's #1 private detective.

There are several ways to get to know India. Naturally, you can move there and stay for, say, a couple of dozen years. (Anything much shorter won’t do the trick.) You could also read all the travel guides ever written about the country, and that might give you a pretty good sense of the place. Or you could read the mystery novels featuring Vish Puri, “India’s #1 private detective,” by Tarquin Hall. The third book in Hall’s series, The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken, may be the best introduction of all, at least to northern India. Hall will immerse you in the sights and sounds and smells of Delhi and other northern cities. He’ll treat you to the taste of the distinctive local cuisine. He’ll give you a peek into the country’s history and into the way business (both legal and not) is done there. And along the way he’ll make you laugh a lot.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Much more than a simple detective story

On one level, The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken is a simple mystery story about “India’s #1 private detective.” Well, not so simple, really, because Hall adroitly weaves together three subplots, maintaining suspense throughout. But it’s so much more, really. Somehow, even though the author is an Englishman and lived in New Delhi for only six years, he has managed to gain an appreciation for the people and the culture and convey it all precisely in fewer than 400 pages.

The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken (Vish Puri #3 of 5) by Tarquin Hall (2012) 354 pages ★★★★★ 

India’s #1 private detective is an unforgettable character

Vish Puri is what my friends here in the United States might call a character. He has adopted his own unique nicknames for all those around him. There’s Handbrake, his driver; Tubelight, his assistant who drives a three-wheeler; Flush, a young IT wizard; and Facecream, whose principal job seems to be just to be a babe. Of course, Vish’s own mother is, simply, Mummy, or Mummy-ji. And somehow this team of eccentrics has become recognized as the #1 private detective agency in all of India (although, naturally, Vish takes all the credit).

About the author

Tarquin Hall is an English author and journalist, the son of an English father and an American mother. He now lives with his Indian-American wife in the UK. Previously, working for a time as the South Asian bureau chief for the Associated Press, he lived in New Delhi for six years. To date, he has published a total of four books in the Vish Puri series.

This is one of The best Indian detective novels.

I’ve also reviewed several other books in this series, including:

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