14 June, 2021

A Leary Lark

All the props are present and correct. But the prose is too viscous for pace. Deserved a murder with less Mughal and more mystery

A Leary Lark

A rainy afternoon, the world shut out, hot coffee and a  paperback mystery—The Englishman’s Cameo. Surely, my pleasures are secure. What, after all, can go wrong with murder and mayhem in Shahjahan’s Dilli?

Two hours later, the question is no longer rhetorical. Emerging clueless from the labyrinth, I look back, in puzzlement. All the props are present and correct. Muzaffar Jang, our dashing young detective, is equally at home with the elegance of courtly life and the dregs of Shahjahanabad’s higgledy-piggledy lanes. The murder of an unpleasant man takes him to the boudoir of Delhi’s most notorious courtesan. In the best traditions of fiction, she’s seductive, venal, solitary—and suddenly dead. The two murders are linked, of course, and one of the more tangible links is a jewel found in the dead woman’s possession—the eponymous cameo. These are the dots. Why then such difficulty in connecting them?

The writer is too distracted by the joys of...

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