Ragtime in Simla

Ragtime in Simla  - Barbara Cleverly

This is not much of a review, but I'm having some time on my hands and thought I'd update some posts.


I picked up Ragtime in Simla a few years ago when work took me northern India. I travelled with a colleague who was going to stay for the same period and we decided to plan a trip to Shimla over the weekend. Of course, being way too busy with exploring and work, I never had a chance to read the book - not even on the plane - which is why it ended on my TBR pile for a couple of years. 


Having now read the book, let me start off with the following advice:




Seriously, I don't know if the blurbs differ much but mine (which luckily I didn't read until I finished the book) gave away many of the plot twists.


Other than this I was pleasantly surprised by the book. It comes very close to an Agatha Christie mystery - except with the xenophobia and snobbishness turned down a peg.


The first part of the book seems somewhat out of place as the story is set in southern France, not India, but all will become clear as the story continues and takes you to the foothills of the Himalayas in 1922. 


Simla (or Shimla) served as the Raj's capital during the hot seasons as the hills provided some much-needed respite from the heat.



In Simla we meet Joe Sandilands, who is on holiday from Scotland Yard and travels on the invite of an old acquaintance of his. Pretty soon, Joe understands that this invite might come with the request to apply his professional skills to some mysterious goings on.


I will not describe any more of the story as I don't want to spoil the ride for anyone. Ragtime in Simla is pretty straight-laced murder mystery with a cast of quirky characters, humour, excessive Britishness, and so many red herrings and twists that it is unlikely you'll guess the solution to the puzzle right from the start.

In other words - it is jolly good fun.

Fans of Dame Agatha's will no doubt feel right at home with this book.


What really impressed me, though, was how well Cleverly captured the place. So watch out for the descriptions of the narrow passages, the rows of buildings, the main square, and the Jakhu temple and statue of Lord Hanuman overlooking the town.