Review - THE PALLAMPUR PREDICAMENT - Brian Stoddart

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Publication Details
Book Title: 
The Pallampur Predicament
ISBN: 
9789881351043
Series: 
Le Fanu
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Book Synopsis

The second Superindentent Le Fanu Mystery sees our intrepid British policeman on the trail of the murderers of an Indian Rajah. Under pressure from his superiors, pining for his lost love and allergic to the sight of blood, Le Fanu must navigate through a political mine-field of colonial intrigue in 1920s Madras. As the British tighten their grip on the sub-continent, Gandhi’s peace movement, British secret agents and armed pro-independence rebels complicate Le Fanu’s investigations further and he soon finds himself in a quagmire of violent opposing forces that are unwilling to compromise.

Book Review

The second book in the Superintendent Le Fanu series set in 1920's India, THE PALLAMPUR PREDICAMENT follows on closely from THE MADRAS MIASMA. So closely it would be worthwhile reading both books in order, although not absolutely necessary.

In the reasons why column, in true police procedural style, Le Fanu is hampered by a difficult boss who hates him and his methodologies. At the end of the first book this boss is promoted even further up the chain, and the results of that are played out in this second story. Without the background many of the twists and turns in that relationship won't be as revealing as they could be. 

There is also a relationship building between Le Fanu and his assistant Habi which grows throughout the two books, as does the unlikely friendship, which is greatly informed by the colonial society in which they both live.

Understanding that societal group, it's petty politics and prejudices, and the tensions with the Congress, Ghandi and a local population resenting their Colonial overlords also benefits from the full story in both books.

As does the difficulties of Le Fanu's romance with his once was live in housekeeper who moves away and then returns in the second novel.

Having said that, the strength of these novels is in the way that all of that background is balanced against an ongoing police investigation, with each book pursuing unconnected crimes. The details of the tensions in post-independence India are fascinating, and weaving them into the life of a Superintendent of Police who is sympathetic to the local cause, supportive of the local people, and a fan of local food and culture works really well. THE PALLAMPUR PREDICAMENT takes Le Fanu from the heights of society - in the household of the Rajah of Pallampur who has been brutally murdered, through to the backstreets of Madras and out into the country. These locations and the people living and working there, along with some tendrils into the Secret Service provide many potential motivations, complications and suspects. All of this gives the author a chance to draw a really clear picture of the time and place.

This series is good, old-fashioned, crime / mystery fiction in the best sense of the style. There's a light touch to the humour, a genuine puzzle to be solved with sufficient red herrings to keep a reader's attention. Along the way there is a bit of a history lesson, particularly about Colonial society, and to be fair, it's not all black and white. Add to that a love affair which is risky simply because of the petty prejudices of others, and this is a series that works for fans of gentler, more puzzle based mysteries, as well as those that like the historical aspects.


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