Today’s team review is from Liz, she blogs here https://lizannelloyd.wordpress.com/
Liz has been reading Offstage in Nuala by Harriet Steel
In this third instalment of The Inspector de Silva Mysteries, we return to the island of Ceylon in the 1930s.
In this book the murder scene is the sumptuous Gaiety Theatre, where an Asian tour by a talented group of actors, commences with a production of Hamlet. The whole cast is suspect since no-one else was seen to enter the theatre during rehearsal time and it is soon evident to Inspector de Silva that there are many secrets to uncover. But he is also frustrated by the actions of his superior, Assistant Government Agent, Archie Clutterbuck, who keeps him away from the victim’s wife, Kathleen Darnforth, and from young Emerald Watson, who may have been Mr Darnforth’s mistress.
Shanti de Silva leaves no stone unturned as he explores every nook and cranny of the old theatre and sets his sergeant and constable on thorough investigations. However, their work is interrupted by an amusing interlude involving Mrs Clutterbuck’s pet Shih Tzu dog, Angel, and a large elephant. There are fascinating descriptions of the busy market and of Shanti’s cool fragrant garden where he walks at the end of the day.
“As he turned to go back to the bungalow, something drifted into his hair. He brushed it off and smelt again the sweet, intense fragrance of frangipani. The flower’s pale yellow gleamed against the dark lawn. He remembered his mother saying that if a frangipani flower fell on your head, you would have good luck. He hoped she was right.”
Inspector de Silva will need this good luck as he homes in on the culprit, putting himself in severe danger. In a thrilling conclusion, he discovers a surprising twist which he hadn’t expected.
Once again, the complex social structure of 1930s colonial life is effectively recreated in a story about well-rounded characters in a colourful, exotic location. The guide to the main characters provided at the beginning make it possible to enjoy this novel without needing to have read the first two.
There’s great excitement when a professional theatre company comes to Nuala. However, matters take a dark turn when the company’s actor manager is murdered. Inspector de Silva has a new case to solve and he has to consider some very unpalatable motives for the crime. He will need all his persistence, coupled with his wife, Jane’s, invaluable help to unmask the villain of the piece.
Harriet Steel published four historical novels before turning to crime with the Inspector de Silva mysteries. Her work has also appeared in national newspapers and magazines.