Author: Harriet Steel
Category: Cosy Mystery, Historical Fiction, Book Review
It’s January 1940 and the day of Nuala’s famous motor rally. Excitement is at full throttle, but matters take a dark turn when that same evening, human remains are found buried in a lonely corner of a local tea plantation.
Inspector de Silva has a cold case to solve. Add a playboy racing driver, a missing Bugatti and a family scandal hushed up years ago into the mix and he has plenty to think about. You can be sure that whatever happened in the past, now de Silva’s in the driving seat, you’re in for a gripping ride.
The story opens as Inspector Shanti de Silva and his wife, Jane are attending Nuala’s famous car rally, the Hill Country Challenge held every four years, along with Archie and Florence Clutterbuck and Charlie Frobisher and his lady friend. This was de Silva’s third time at the rally but his appreciation of the array of wonderful cars, including a Bentley, Maserati and Bugatti, has not diminished. After the excitement of the race Charlie treated them all to a round of cocktails.
The next day de Silva had a call from the Residence. A Sunday morning call from Clutterbuck didn’t bode well and de Silva wondered what could have happened.
It seems Johnny Perera, the winner of the previous day’s race, and some of his pals had paid a late night visit to a local plantation. Perera’s dog had slipped his leash and unearthed some bones that turned out to be human.
De Silva groaned inwardly. As he’d feared, it was the end of his quiet Sunday.
‘I’m going up to the plantation shortly,’ Archie went on. ‘I’ll pick you up on my way. I can fill you in a bit more as we drive.’
‘Very well. You said only Marina Moncrieff lives at the plantation now. Does she know what’s happened?’
‘I’m not sure. Apparently, she didn’t come out to see what was going on, but Perera and his friends didn’t arrive until late, and it was even later when they made their unpleasant discovery. Maybe the servants didn’t want to disturb her. We’ll have to find out more about that.’
De Silva is tasked with a complicated case, trying to work out whose bones have lain buried for many years, while having to tread carefully since Archie didn’t investigate a certain disappearance fully initially. Ably assisted by Sergeant Prasanna and Constable Nadar, de Silva follows all avenues, even if they necessitate night time work and a close encounter he would have much preferred to avoid.
I enjoyed the cold case aspect of the story, which was plausible and convincing. And as always, the location is fully realised with wonderful descriptions of the countryside, the flora and fauna and delicious sounding food.
Change is on the horizon in Ceylon as has been hinted at with some underlying edginess between the two cultures. Although the country was still part of the British Empire in 1940 and as such officially at war with Germany, the citizens were not actively involved.
I chose to read and review Cold Case in Nuala based on a copy kindly supplied by the author.
Book links ~ Amazon | Book Depository | 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.