- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
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.
"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.