In this third instalment of The Inspector de Silva Mysteries, we return to the island of Ceylon in the 1930s.
There’s great excitement when a professional theatre company comes to Nuala. However matters take a dark turn when the company’s actor manager is murdered. Inspector de Silva has a new case to solve and he has to consider some very unpalatable motives for the crime. He will need all his persistence, coupled with his wife, Jane’s, invaluable help to unmask the villain of the piece.
In this book the murder scene is the sumptuous Gaiety Theatre, where an Asian tour by a talented group of actors, commences with a production of Hamlet. The whole cast is suspect since no-one else was seen to enter the theatre during rehearsal time and it is soon evident to Inspector de Silva that there are many secrets to uncover. But he is also frustrated by the actions of his superior, Assistant Government Agent, Archie Clutterbuck, who keeps him away from the victim’s wife, Kathleen Darnforth, and from young Emerald Watson, who may have been Mr Darnforth’s mistress.
Shanti de Silva leaves no stone unturned as he explores every nook and cranny of the old theatre and sets his sergeant and constable on thorough investigations. However, their work is interrupted by an amusing interlude involving Mrs Clutterbuck’s pet Shih Tzu dog, Angel, and a large elephant. There are fascinating descriptions of the busy market and of Shanti’s cool fragrant garden where he walks at the end of the day.
“As he turned to go back to the bungalow, something drifted into his hair. He brushed it off and smelt again the sweet, intense fragrance of frangipani. The flower’s pale yellow gleamed against the dark lawn. He remembered his mother saying that if a frangipani flower fell on your head, you would have good luck. He hoped she was right.”
Inspector de Silva will need this good luck as he homes in on the culprit, putting himself in severe danger. In a thrilling conclusion, he discovers a surprising twist which he hadn’t expected.
Once again, the complex social structure of 1930s colonial life is effectively recreated in a story about well-rounded characters in a colourful, exotic location. The guide to the main characters provided at the beginning make it possible to enjoy this novel without needing to have read the first two.
You can purchase Offstage in Nuala on Amazon UK
or on Amazon US
Harriet Steel grew up in London and Wiltshire but now lives in Surrey. Married with two daughters, she has worked in fields from law to libraries. Her interests are travel, history and art, all of which have inspired the four historical novels she wrote before turning to crime with The Inspector de Silva Mysteries. She reads widely, but in the mystery genre is particularly fond of vintage mysteries. She would love to go back in time for a day and have lunch with Hercule Poirot, tea with Miss Marple, and dinner at the Ritz with Lord Peter Wimsey.
She loves to hear from readers so do visit her blog where you’ll find interviews with other authors, articles on a variety of topics and more information about her writing. If you would like advance notice of new releases, offers and promotions, there’s a Follow by Email button.