As it turns out, some this series of mysteries by Ellis Peters focus on George, some on Dominic, and at least one on Bunty Felse. This one is entirely focused on Dominic and his girl Tossa, and their impromptu trip to India, free of charge, in exchange for escorting the daughter of a film star to her father’s home in Delhi. If the last novel was all opera all the time, this one is all atmosphere, and Peters does an excellent job of conveying the sounds, sights, smells, feel of incredibly exotic and over-crowded India. I do not know if she ever visited India, but I can vouch for the fact that her descriptions are spot on when it comes to Delhi and various aspects of its character. Peters also reflects a rather good understanding of the culture and its dominant Hindu and Buddhist religions as well.
At heart, this novel is not a murder mystery, though there is one secondary character who is murdered. Rather it is a tale of child kidnapping, with the whole arc of the plot bending towards the frantic search for the child Anjli, but also for her missing father as well. Peters of course reflects a British take on India, but not without real insight into its mysterious character and real appreciation for its charm. As one character remarks, street life in India is like a constant circus with much to see and partake of. I would liken it to a very large scale Mardi Gras season in New Orleans or Mobile.
As in some of the previous novels, Dominic is not so much the solver of the puzzles, as the participant who aides the process along. He is one part tourist, one part chaperon, and and one part helper, not least because the kidnapped child is the very girl he was supposed to escort to a rendezvous with her long lost father.
A raga is a song, a mourning raga is a funeral song, not to be confused with a morning raga which is a little ditty you might whistle upon arising. Like an Indian song, this novel wanders all up and down the scale of emotions and notes, pulling at your own heart strings at points along the way. The score last for about 200 pages, as per usual with these novels, and I will leave to your own inspection and deduction whether you think it came to a satisfactory conclusion or not. This tune is not Peter’s most memorable, and there is an element of the contrived in its denouement, but still it is a pleasant fiction, and the tune is much better than that of a snake charmer. It’s a fun afternoon’s read.