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Hall, Tarquin - 'The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing'
Hardback: 352 pages (Feb. 2011) Publisher: Hutchinson ISBN: 0091925657

I have heard of laughing clubs and have thought for a while I would like to join one so the title of this book attracted me straight away.

The Laughing Club is a group of people who believe that laughter cures and aids developing a healthy mind and body. Dr Suresh Jha is a devotee of the laughter club who meet under a tree on the lawns of the Rajpath - a well-known boulevard in Central Delhi. Dr Jha is a rationalist who campaigns against the many gurus who, in his opinion, use magic tricks and illusions to con people into believing and following them and into handing over large sums of money.

Vish Puri is a family man who loves his food and is a well known, respected and very successful private detective. He suffers in the heat and pollution of modern Delhi and moves between his beloved air conditioned Ambassador car, office and home with as little effort as possible. Inspector Singh has profited from Vish's detecting abilities on cases in the past and when Dr Jha is killed by the hand of an apparition of the goddess Kali at the laughing club meeting, invites him to quietly investigate the death. Dr Jha was investigating Maharaj Swami whose followers include many rich and influential people and Vish soon finds that the Maharaj Swami is protected by powerful people in the government.

The heat, colours, noise and also the humanity of a modern Indian city comes through very clearly. In investigating the crime, Vish uses various undercover operatives who have talents in escaping attention - after all, who notices the road-mender covered in dust and dirt in this country or in India.

I felt in some aspects that the characterisation was a bit stereotypical but that may be due to my over sensitivity. The author was born in the UK, is married and lives in Delhi, so never having visited India; I can only presume that this description of a country of such contrasts is true. I enjoyed this. It didn't make me laugh out loud but quietly chuckle - not at the characters but with them. I will certainly look out for more books starring Vish Puri.

Susan White, England
March 2011

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 30/06/2012 20:11