Cromartie vs. the God Shiva: Acting Through the Government of India

Overview

With a magical story about art, love, and greed, Rumer Godden returns to India, the country that has inspired many of her greatest works. Set in London and on south India's shimmering Coromandel coast, the story is based on a real case that happened ten years ago concerning the ownership of a priceless bronze statue. An entrancing modern-day morality tale, Cromartie v. the God Shiva Acting Through the Government of India is also at heart a touching love story. The story opens with the discovery that a revered ...
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Overview

With a magical story about art, love, and greed, Rumer Godden returns to India, the country that has inspired many of her greatest works. Set in London and on south India's shimmering Coromandel coast, the story is based on a real case that happened ten years ago concerning the ownership of a priceless bronze statue. An entrancing modern-day morality tale, Cromartie v. the God Shiva Acting Through the Government of India is also at heart a touching love story. The story opens with the discovery that a revered eleventh-century statue of the Hindu god Shiva has gone missing from the old-fashioned Patna Hall hotel. It ends up in the hands of a Canadian art dealer, Mr. Cromartie, who takes it to London to be appraised by one of the world's chief specialists in Oriental antiques, only to find it impounded by the British police. Insisting the statue was not stolen, Mr. Cromartie takes the case to court and a legal battle ensues. Michael Dean, a leading young lawyer, is sent from London to assume the case for the defense: the Indian government. There, he is instantly captivated by Artemis, an enchanting and graceful archaeologist staying at the hotel, who proves to be as elusive as the mystery of the theft he is investigating.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Based on a real incident that occurred a decade ago, this assured novel by 89-year-old Godden (Black Narcissus, etc.) concerns a sensational case brought by the Hindu god Shiva, "acting through the government of India," against a wealthy Canadian, Sydney Carstairs Cromartie, who buys a small, 11th-century bronze statue of Shiva in Toronto. Cromartie takes the figurine to a highly reputable London art dealer, where a staff member informs the Indian government that the priceless artifact has likely been stolen. The partners in a prestigious set of chambers in London's Inns of Court overcome their fear of appearing ridiculous and assign the case to young Michael Dean, who was born and raised in India. Dean returns to his homeland to investigate and stays at Patna Hall, a quaint beachfront hotel in South India, seen before in Godden's Coromandel Sea Change. Although Dean soon falls for a visiting archeologist, love is not allowed to get in the way of the pursuit of justice; the denouement, however, brings one of the lovers a broken heart. Liberally dabbed with local color, the book is fast-pacedso much so that its concise prose sometimes seems hasty, its simple characterizations verging on the glib. Yet Godden's fans will probably welcome yet another of this veteran novelist's tales of India. (Nov.)
Library Journal
The author of more than 60 books (e.g., The River), Godden, now nearly 90, again weaves a complex tale, fraught with mystery and set in London and on the Coromandel coast of India. Based on a real case, the story revolves around an ancient bronze statue of the Hindu god Shiva. When barrister Michael Dean is sent to India to research the statue's verisimilitude, he must decide whether this national treasure is real or a forgery. Woven in with issues of morality is the developing love of Michael for Artemis, a woman with a surprising "agenda." Godden's descriptions are airy and open, almost like detail in an impressionistic painting. Is reality largely in the eye of the beholder? What is the role of the gods? Readers who enjoy far-away cultures will find this tale a treat.Ellen R. Cohen, Rockville, Md.
Kirkus Reviews
About to celebrate her 90th birthday, Godden, author of over 60 books for adults and children, again writes with grace and a cheerfully lilting prose, evoking the mannered high-style of a cultivated English/Indian backwater.

Based on an actual case involving the theft of a statue of the god Shiva (in which the god, Acting Through the Government of India, became the plaintiff), this is a tale of quiet sleuthing, romance, and grand tragedy, set in a present-day Indian coastal hotel of minimal comforts but top-notch cuisine, courtesies, and clientele. Junior barrister Michael Dean, of a prestigious London firm, was raised in India and is now chosen to track down the thief who has made off with a priceless, revered statue of the god Shiva (in his manifestation as Lord of the Dance). The statue, an object of veneration, had long been resident in Patna Hall, a grandly veranda-ed hotel for the cultivated traveler (or those determined to be so). The hotel, managed by the elderly Englishwoman Miss Sanni, is where a visiting professor discovers that an elegant copy has been substituted for the god's statue. Joined by Dutta, an Indian Chief Inspector, Michael not only turns up both clues and questions in the hotel and in the marketplace, but also finds heated romance with cool, fascinating Artemis Knox, who arrives with a "cultural" group. Could the thieves have been old servants who worried that the hotel was in financial trouble? Could—certainly not!—Miss Sanni herself have sought such a solution? The truth, when revealed, will bring love and death in its wake.

A delight for Godden's many followers, one encompassing the experience of the beauties and traditions of India, the richness of its religions, and Godden's own essential dash of gallantry and grand gestures.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688155506
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/1/1997
  • Edition description: 1st U.S. Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 170
  • Product dimensions: 5.77 (w) x 8.58 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Read an Excerpt

"Cromartie versus the God Shiva. No, thank you," said Sir George.

"Walter, I really don't think I can take this case."

Sir George Fothergill, QC, was head of one of the most prestigious sets of chambers in London's Inns of Court. Walter Johnson was its head clerk.

The Chambers, though not in Lincoln's Inn, were nearby in Lincoln's Square. In the tall old house, Sir George and his deputy head of chambers, Miss Honor Wyatt, QC, had the two panelled first-floor rooms. The rest of the barristers in the set worked two or three together while Walter was in the spacious basement, which he liked because it opened on to the narrow terrace of garden. His "snug", as he called it, not only had his desk, filing cabinets and shelves of law books on every wall, but his armchair by the fireplace — in winter the flickering gas fire was always lit — with a fine Persian hearth rug and above, on the mantelshelf, his collection of toby jugs. Next door was a large office for the deputy clerk — Walter's son, Johnny — Johnny's own assistant, Jeffrey, and his accounts clerk, Elizabeth. Ginevra, the perky young receptionist, had her desk with its telephones above in the front hall.

"It's always the head clerks who really run chambers," Sir George would say. "Walter's family have been in the set longer than any of us."

"Yes," Walter agreed. "John Johnson my father, then me, Walter Johnson, and now Johnny, my son, who's only been here five years, and he's just had a baby son. Perhaps he ... I like continuity," said Walter.

Now Sir George was going on: "I don't want to oppose you, Walter — when have I ever?" he asked. "But this is too fantastical — aHindu god going to law."

"Acting through the Government of India, sir, which seems solid enough to me."

"It can't be solid if it's a spirit, which I don't believe is active. No, I can't bring myself to do it. We should be a laughing stock."

"Ask Miss Wyatt what she thinks." Walter was a diplomat.

Copyright ) 1997 by Rumer Godden.

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