Length: 202 pages
Last week I reviewed a book that was a historical mystery set in India. When I stumbled across this book (thanks book blog reviewer Cathy at Between the Lines!) set in Sri Lanka circa 1930's I was glad to see another cozy series featured in that part of the world.
Native born Inspector de Silva is living the good life in the fictional town of Nuala on the island of Ceylon (later named Sri Lanka.) He and his English born wife Jane have a lovely home with a peaceful garden and calm ambience away from the bustling city life of nearby Colombo. His small police station consists of himself and two other assistants, who spend their time with minor disruptions to country life, like wandering ponies and petty theft complaints.
De Silva is drawn into a case involving a surly tea plantation owner, Charles Renshaw, and one of his workers. It seems the owner was not well liked by many and is accused of excessive corporal punishment to one of the many poor, destitute factory men, most of whom are local born natives with few opportunities to better their lives. De Silva sympathizes with their plight but knows he must tread lightly, as the ruling class has the advantage and he doesn't want retaliation to be a problem for the injured man. As de Silva investigates, Renshaw is found dead in one of the tanks in the factory. At first it seems to be a natural death related to his heart condition. But slowly clues seem to indicate that it was in fact murder.
There are several suspects that seem plausible, including Renshaw's widow Madeleine, the abused worker's pro bono lawyer, Mr. Tragore, and Renshaw's business partner, Mr. Leung. All come with unique challenges for de Silva in his investigation as they either have seemingly sufficient alibis or in the case of the widow, the inability to physically have carried out the crime. De Silva also begins to wonder if more than one person is conspiring with another and leaves all options on the table. He feels under pressure to prove his small town police operation can handle the case as well as those in the big city. As he sleuths and bides his time he uncovers the answers while managing to maintain his sense of humor and charm.
I enjoyed this story and I especially liked de Silva's character. He is devoted to his wife, loves his culture and home but manages to appreciate the contributions of his British born wife's culture as well. His style is patient yet dogged and he has compassion for each person he is investigating, though in the end he is not afraid to play hardball to get his suspect. I thought the author did a good job of making him relatable and realistic.
There was an emphasis on food in this story and I imagine it was because it lent itself to giving the reader an authentic sense of the culture and atmosphere. Every time a meal was mentioned it was in detail and made me want to try it. But it didn't feel out of place and added to the setting.
It was a very short story and honestly the plot wasn't terribly detailed or hard to figure out but it did have some twists that made it interesting. As far as cozy mysteries go, it was a good one. I want to read book two because the main character is someone I enjoyed getting to know. The town of Nuala is charming and idyllic and sounds like a great place to live!