For an introduction to India’s cultural and culinary delights, you might hop a flight to Delhi or book a trip to Mumbai. But to meet the country sans passport free of airport indignities, you could just curl up with the crime novels of Tarquin Hall.
Vish Puri, Hall’s opinionated private investigator, is a 50-something Punjabi super sleuth with a fondness for family and food. The mustachioed detective cracks open India’s underbelly with a caseload that delves into forbidden love, corruption in Indian cricket and the deadly clash between science and superstition.
Puri hangs his shingle in the upscale Khan Market in New Delhi, near the posh residential compounds for senior government officials, their “Lutyens bungalows” a relic of the British Raj. Standing in the market, Hall explains why he chose to set Puri’s office in this high-priced district. “It’s a great place to describe, because you have seen so much change here. It was a very sleepy little market in the mid ’90s when I first lived in India,” he says. “You’ve now got this amazing bling: you’ve got shampoo from Provence, you’ve got cookies that sell for twice what the average Indian laborer makes per day.”