One of the best things about reading crime fiction (and blogging about it) is that I’m always discovering the work of new-to-me authors. That’s why I so enjoy participating in the New (to Me, Anyway) Authors meme hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise. And by the way, you really want to keep up with that excellent blog if you enjoy crime fiction. All sorts of great reviews and news await you there.
For this quarter, my choice for new-to-me author is Brian Stoddart. A world-class academic (he is a Distinguished Fellow at the Australia India Institute, housed at the University of Melbourne), Stoddart is an international authority on education reform. He’s also an authority on sport. He’s also a columnist and commentator, with several non-fiction books to his credit.
He is also the author of the Superintendent Christian ‘Chris’ Le Fanu crime novels. These are historical mysteries, set in 1920’s Madras (today’s Chennai) during the British Raj. In the first one, A Madras Miasma, Le Fanu and his assistant Muhammad ‘Habi’ Habibullah are faced with a very delicate matter when the body of Jane Carstairs is pulled from the Buckingham Canal. The victim was staying with a friend at the home of Sir Roland Wark at the time of the murder, and was generally known to be part of what’s uncharitably called ‘the fishing fleet.’ The term refers to young women who are no longer in their early twenties, and who haven’t yet found good husbands. Several of them travel to Madras, looking for officers, doctors, and other empire-builders who would make choice spouses. Because of the social circles in which Jane moved, the trail leads to some very high and well-protected places.
In The Pallampur Predicament, Le Fanu and Habi work with Superintendent Jackson Caldicott to find out who murdered the Rajah of Pallampur. The Madras Commissioner of Police, Arthur Jepson, is convinced that the Rajah was killed by servants who bore him a grudge. But Le Fanu and his team are convinced that this is more complicated than that. They’ve got no lack of suspects, too. For one thing, the victim’s wife, Charlotte, was not exactly faithful, and is not exactly devastated by her husband’s death. In fact, she seems more concerned that her private activities will become public gossip. There’s also her lover, who had every reason for murder. Add to that the many members of government that the Rajah had alienated, and the growing movement for Indian independence, and there are many possibilities.
Want to know more about Brian Stoddart? It’s all right here.
Want to know more about A Madras Miasma? Look no further than here.
Want to know more about The Pallampur Predicament? You’ll find it here.
Late Breaking News…
The next Le Fanu mystery, A Straits Settlement, is due out on 19 May. Watch for it!
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Little River Band’s It’s Not a Wonder.