Imagine this: 1656 Delhi. Muzaffar Jang – an aristocrat with friends in low places. He has just finished solving a case that involved two Englishmen and the Imperial Exchequer. All he wants to do is take it easy and here come more cases waiting for him to be solved. Muzaffar Jang also happens to be a detective – a part-time one but a detective nonetheless.
The series of mysteries in this collection are something else – from the elephant that killed his mahout to the murder of an artist, these ten stories will have you wanting more. I am always biased to good mystery stories and when they came with an appropriate historical background, it makes it even better.
Madhulika Liddle’s writing has definitely come of age from her first book. The writing is crisp and taut, just the way a good mystery tale should be told. At the same time, the essence of the book is not lost. Delhi in 1656 must have been very difficult to conjure for any writer. Historical fiction is probably easier to write when supported by some facts as a map. In the absence of such a map, it becomes a task to invent characters and fit them in situations and yet exhilarating from the author’s point of view.
There were times I wondered and wanted the book to be a novel, only because I wanted to see where it would go and what turn it would take, more so for the last story, “The Woman who Vanished” as it is my personal favourite from the collection. The Eighth Guest and Other Muzaffar Jang Mysteries still stands as a testimony that Indian writers can write a good mystery. Madhulika Liddle is a writer to watch out for. Read this book and her earlier book, “The Englishman’s Cameo” as well.