The Palace Tiger Paperback – Jul 25 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Scotland Yard inspector Joseph Sandilands is once again in India visiting Governor Sir George Jardine. It is 1922, and the Maharajah of Ranipur, a British ally, has requested assistance. A man-eating tiger is terrorizing the villagers, so the governor sends Sandilands and Edgar Troop, an experienced hunter, to kill it. The tiger, however, turns out to be the least of their problems. The maharajah is dying, and the line of succession is unclear. His first son died in a suspicious incident involving a panther, and the second died in a plane crash. The remaining son, only 12 years old, is the British favorite to succeed his father. Sandilands and Troop must ensure his survival while tracking down the murderer and navigating the rough terrain of the palace social order. As always, Cleverly (The Last Kasmiri Rose, 2002; Ragtime in Simla, 2003; The Damascened Blade, 2004) draws readers into the British raj with colorful historical details, a complex plot, and fascinating characters. This fine addition to the series will please readers who enjoy visiting colonial India. Barbara Bibel
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Scotland Yard detective and WWI hero Joe Sandilands already has experienced his share of excitement while on assignment in 1920s India. In his fourth outing, he is drawn into a world of royal intrigue. Joe's detecting and diplomatic skills are put to the test as he solves a series of murders while navigating the tenuous political line between the ruling British and the government of the princely state of Ranipur.
The maharaja, the ruler of Ranipur, is terminally ill, and the line of succession is in question after the death of his eldest son in an incident first believed an accident and then determined to be murder. Along with a colleague, the enigmatic Edgar Troop, Joe is sent to Ranipur under the pretense of taking part in a hunting party to track down a rogue tiger that has been attacking villagers.
Before Edgar and Joe arrive at the royal palace, another fatality occurs. This time it's the second of the maharaja's sons, whose demise also appears to be accidental until clues are uncovered that suggest otherwise. Unable to act in an official capacity because of political restrictions, Joe is tasked with discreetly investigating the murders and with protecting the maharaja's last living son, Bahadur, from harm.
No sooner does Joe arrive in Ranipur than he finds himself embroiled in the private lives of the palace's inhabitants, among them Madeleine, the widow of the slain second son; Stuart, Madeleine's brother and a former World War I fighter pilot; Claude Vyvyan, British Regent of Ranipur, and his secretive wife, Lois; Shubhada, the ruler's unconventional third wife; and Udai Singh, the reigning maharaja.
In THE PALACE TIGER, Barbara Cleverly unfolds a classic whodunit against an exotic backdrop. Her descriptions of the palace, from courtyards bursting with colorful blooms to winding marble corridors and gilded rooms to the customs and practices that take place within its walls, are intriguing enough. Add to that a clever mystery and a dashing detective, and it makes for an appealing read.
The character of Joe Sandilands is without a doubt the main draw. Just as the major players in this drama are compelled to confide in him, readers too will be drawn in by his intelligence, confidence, kindness, and quiet authority. But even Joe had better heed the advice given to him by his mentor, Sir George Jardine: "There are man-eaters in Ranipur, certainly ones with four legs but quite probably another prowling the corridors on two legs." As Joe discovers, Sir George is not far off the mark.
--- Reviewed by Shannon McKenna
Because a man-eating tiger seems is on the loose in Ranipur, its ruler, Udai Singh, requests that the well known adventurer, Edgar Troop, come up to help kill it. And because he is feeling bored and completely at loose ends, Joe Sandilands gladly agrees to accompany Troop to Ranipur when Troop asks him if he'd like to come along for the adventure. Once there, however, both Sandilands and Troop quickly realize that a man-eating tiger is the least of the rich and wily Udai Singh's problems. The kingdom is facing a real crisis because both of Udai Singh's legitimate sons have fallen victim to freak accidents, leaving the principality without legitimate heirs to take over -- of course there is the King's twelve-year-old illegitimate son, Bahadur. And as Sandilands ponders on Udai Singh's singularly bad luck, a question looms in his mind: were the two princes victims of circumstance, or were they victims of a ruthless killer? Determined to protect Bahadur, Sandilands begins to hunt for answers, and so begins the hunt for a very dangerous killer who seems to stalk the very corridors of the palace...
"The Palace Tiger" is yet another thrilling and suspenseful installment in the Joseph Sandliands mystery series that demands that one finish the book in one go. So that even though I'm not an absolute fan of the series (it is difficult to be a real fan when Cleverly's portrayals of the Indians tends to fall along stereotypical lines: they're either unscrupulous and always smiling or else they're really foolish and always smiling), honesty compels me to admit that Ms. Cleverly knows how to write a good, riveting read that will keep you happily engrossed till the very last page. Complete with a cast of fascintating characters, vivid imagery, atmosphere and an absorbing and intriguing storyline, "The Palace Tiger" was a riveting read from beginning to end. But I have to admit, even though I did enjoy "The Palace Tiger," to being thankful that Barbara Cleverly's next Joseph Sandilands mystery novel will take place in England. Perhaps now I will be able to enjoy this series without reservations!
Sir George provides Joe with a rifle designed for hunting four legged animals and a Browning M pistol used to kill the deadliest species known two legged beasts. Upon arriving in Ranipur, Joe finds the Maharajah near death and his heir Bishan recently killed by a panther. When the next in line son dies in front of Joe, he obviously becomes suspicious of foul play but by whom. The only one to gain with these deaths is the youngest son, a preadolescent who is the favorite of the British Empire even as the cop wonders whether his country authorized murder.
THE PALACE TIGER is a fascinating historical mystery that brings to life 1920s India. The story line is fast paced, filled with action, and plenty of twists including a shocking finish. Joe is a terrific protagonist who feels like an outsider as he makes inquiries that are resented by the Maharaja's family especially his second wife and the local law enforcement. Readers will appreciate this powerful tale and seek out other Raj mysteries (see THE LAST KASHMIRI ROSE) by Barbara Cleverly (perfect name for this author).
That said, I don't think this book is nearly as great as the previous reviewer thinks. None of the characters really stand out in my mind, possibly because there were so many that one can't really get to "know" any of them except Joe Sandilands. The plot was fine, but seemed to get bogged down at the end by a great many twists and turns that would have been more believable had clues about them been introduced earlier in the story.
Overall, it was an enjoyable read- setting this series in the waning days of the British Raj is an excellent move on Cleverly's part, and the mystery kept my interest, even if I wasn't thoroughly compelled by it.
I would read Cleverly's other books in the series, but she is not one of those authors that immediately goes to the top of my to-be-read pile when a new offering is released. Rather, she's one that I would read if nothing else on my shelf really grabbed my fancy because she is a light, not-too-complicated writer.
In The Palace Tiger Cleverly manages to combine the traditional post WW I English House Party murder mystery sub genre with the complicated relationships of the Raj period in India. She is also an excellent writer.
As with her previous Joe Sandilands in India mysteries, Cleverly gives abundant clues as to the complex aspects of Indian and British cultures that provide the motives for the crimes, but in such a subtle way that she does not make it easy for the reader to guess the outcome.
I found myself awakening at 4 am when about 2/3 rds of the way through this book, with a sudden insight into who had perpetrated the crimes. In an odd way I was partially right, but not for the reasons I had originally thought.
I have not yet read any of the later Sandilands books that take place in England and France, but I suspect that I will miss the brilliantly depicted sights, sounds, scents, colors, foods, and heat of India that make up such a large part of these excellent mysteries.