The fourth Joe Sandilands whodunit (after 2004's The Damascened Blade) places Cleverly in the first rank of historical mystery writers; with each successive novel, she has displayed an increasingly impressive ability to depict a convincing, three-dimensional colonial India through the perspective of her rugged, insightful sleuth, who balances acumen and action. This time, Sandilands, a Scotland Yarder whose temporary posting to the Raj keeps getting extended, investigates the death of an Indian royal prince. As the maharajah, the dead man's father, is himself in failing health, and the future leadership of his domain is of vital importance to the British, Sandilands must ascertain whether foul play was involved. But as soon as Sandilands arrive on the scene, the next heir to the throne falls victim to a fatal accident. The detective divides his attention between unraveling the hidden alliances within the royal family and seeking to protect the maharajah's third son, the new presumptive heir. Cleverly's trademark twisty plotting rises to new heights, and while the clues are all hidden in plain sight, even veteran mystery readers may find it a considerable challenge to arrive at the correct solution. As the author's research and period detail are exemplary, this should have crossover appeal to Paul Scott readers and others fascinated with the waning years of the British Raj.
Reviewed on: 05/30/2005 Release date: 06/01/2005 Genre: Fiction