When an American millionaire and his glamorous daughter visit Nuala, the splendour they bring to the town’s high society is soon tragically tarnished by a vicious crime.
With many avenues of inquiry to follow, including the involvement of a mysterious fortune teller, Inspector de Silva will need all his resources to unravel the evidence and avert further disaster.
A gripping mystery with lots of twists and turns set in the colourful and fascinating world of 1930s Ceylon.
There is a slight air of menace in this volume of the investigations of Inspector Shanti de Silva in the delightful hill town of Nuala. There are still sophisticated gatherings at the sumptuous home of Assistant Governor Archie Clutterbuck and his wife Florence, but the talk is of a gathering storm in Britain, hoping for “Peace in our time.” However, people are excited to meet wealthy world travellers Walter and Grace Tankerton and their sullen daughter Phoebe. Even more interesting is the American millionaire, Hank O’Halloran and his vivacious daughter Marie. Such conspicuous wealth attracts unwelcome attention, so Tankerton has employed an ex-military man, Patterson to guard his daughter, Phoebe.
Soon an audacious kidnapping occurs and while Shanti and his men investigate, an unpopular local man is found dead. Is there a link to a clairvoyant visited by Phoebe and Marie? The police spend long hours watching for the kidnappers and begin to suspect one of the staff employed by Tankerton or O’Halloran. Meanwhile there seems to be a mysterious animal skulking in Shanti’s garden.
The plot of this mystery is complex and puzzling, set against the happy married life of Shanti and his English wife, Jane in the idyllic pre-war setting of Ceylon under British Colonial rule. I always enjoy these detective stories, but this volume is particularly engaging.
Taken In Nuala on Amazon UK
My review of Trouble in Nuala the first book in this series
Of all the exotic Eastern settings in colonial times selected by Dinah Jefferies for her books, Ceylon in the 1930s is perhaps the most beautiful. Here we meet Louisa Reeve, living in a pleasant house with a handsome husband and her father living nearby. Having grown up on the island, she is happy to cycle round the 300 year old walled town of Galle, talking to the locals or to play with her three beautiful dogs but there is great sadness in her life; her daughter Julia was stillborn, and she has suffered two miscarriages. Husband, Elliot, is frequently away on business or out sailing and as a reader I instantly mistrusted him. Soon tragedy strikes and we learn of Elliot’s treachery. In contrast to the detailed description of the tropical landscape; the colourful hibiscus plants, the perfumed frangipani trees, the aroma of cinnamon bark, the cool waves of the Indian ocean, we also read of Louisa’s struggle to cope with suspicious men demanding money, an unkind mother-in-law and a revelation that causes her to doubt whether Elliot really loved her.
In order to survive, Louisa plans to open an emporium in an old print house and she approaches Leo McNairn, owner of a cinnamon plantation to offer a contract exporting his crop through her spice agency in Colombo. She finds Leo, a strong but rather sad man, unsettling, and she feels sure he knew more about her husband’s past. Circumstances throw them together, but an orphaned boy may separate them.
Many previous fans of Dinah Jefferies’ books seem disappointed by this novel, but I particularly enjoyed it, perhaps because I could identify with the lonely but independent, Louisa and the stories of other characters added interest and context to her tale.
The Sapphire Widow is available to purchase on Amazon UK
My review of The Missing Sister by Dinah Jefferies
In the latest Inspector de Silva mystery, set in the hill country of 1930s Ceylon, it is monsoon season, so travelling about to investigate a murder is particularly difficult. Although already feeling unwell, Inspector de Silva is determined to brave the treacherous roads and dangerous criminals to solve the murder of an insignificant local villager. This leads him to find unusual coins and the possibility of valuable artefacts, but on this occasion, it seems that he is mistaken.
In this novel, Shanti’s wife Jane and his boss Archie Clutterbuck take more active participation in the investigation. Jane and Inspector de Silva have a hair-raising adventure on board a train to Colombo, equal to those of an Agatha Christie novel, while Archie makes the most of his wife’s absence on a cruise to help the Nuala police force, seeking treasure. There are dastardly villains contributing to the excitement of this drama.
The effects of the monsoon weather and the dense, frightening environment are vividly described, in contrast to the de Silva’s calm homelife. I am surprised that Shanti does not have more interaction with his servants, who are never named. During the story, Shanti and Jane discuss going on a cruise one day. Now that would provide a perfect setting for his detective skills.
Fatal Finds in Nuala is available at Amazon UK
To read my review of the first Inspector de Silva mystery Trouble in Nuala
I read this book as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team
It was a pleasure to return to mid-1930s colonial Ceylon and reconnect with the courteous Inspector Shanti de Silva and his amenable English wife, Jane. A painstaking detective, De Silva manages to balance polite acquiescence to his pompous superior, government agent, Archie Clutterbuck, with a determined pursuit of justice.
We join society in Nuala at an exciting time, when a young couple from Australia are visiting Lady Caroline Petrie en route to claiming an inheritance. Ralph Wynne Talbot is the long-lost heir of the Earl of Axford. He is almost too charming and his wife Helen is stunning. Soon there is a tragic death, but is it murder or suicide? Meanwhile Sergeant Prasanna is distracted by the mistreatment of a young lady called Kuveni. She and her family have fled to Nuala from their village due to ill treatment by the headman whom she had refused to marry. This is outside De Silva’s remit but he will try to find a solution since the girl’s plight is so important to his young Sergeant.
The plot of this second volume is faster moving than the first and this time Shanti de Silva puts himself in considerable danger. Alongside the drama Jane manages social problems with great diplomacy and tact, giving us a window into colonial life in this era. This combination of social history, exciting crime solving and a delightful loving couple make Dark Clouds over Nuala a great pleasure to read. I am sure there will be more mysteries for Inspector de Silva to solve, but I also have a desire to read about how he met and wooed Jane when she was the governess to a colonial family.
You might also like to read my review of Trouble in Nuala Volume one of the Inspector de Silva mysteries.
You can purchase Dark Clouds over Nuala at Amazon
Trouble in Nuala is the first in a series of investigations by Inspector Shanti de Silva in colonial Ceylon. Although a Sri Lankan himself, Shanti is married to Jane, an Englishwoman whom he had met after she came to the island as a governess. They mix in the “best” social circles of Nuala, up in the hills far from the busy city of Colombo. An experienced policeman, he may feel frustrated by his junior police officers and by the patronising attitude of Clutterbuck, the assistant government agent, but he is determined to investigate all cases without preference.
Although mainly concerned with minor offences such as neglected horses running wild, the sudden death of a bombastic, unpopular tea planter strikes de Silva as being suspicious, so he quietly makes inquiries into all the circumstances. The lonely widow and the planter’s stepson were not happy, the plantation was making a loss and a young lawyer had recently accused the planter of mistreating his workers.
Interspersed with the gradual investigation is a delightful description of the beauty of Sri Lanka and of the pretentious social life of the British community living there in the 1930s. Shanti and Jane have a respectful relationship based on love and consideration, so he willingly eats cucumber sandwiches when he would much prefer a spicier snack.
This gentle, intelligent policemen could well become renowned for his careful and thoughtful approach to crime in an enthralling environment. A very enjoyable and relaxing book to read. I look forward to his next investigation.
You can find Trouble in Nuala here