Some sweet oldies play detective in this fun read

With a title like Murder at the Happy Home for the Aged, you expect the victim in the book to be one of the inmates. Instead neither murderer nor victim actually belongs to the Home.

When a woman’s body is found strung up on a tree in the Home’s garden, the residents take it as a chance to do something instead of sitting around in the sun and wondering what their next meal will be.

Mind you, it’s not that they’re badly off. Maria, who runs the home and a café, thinks of them as “sweet oldies” and pampers them.

The ill-assorted bunch of Rosie, Prema, Deven, Yuri and Cyrilo do not really get along together but are willing to put aside their differences to get to the bottom of this. Then there is Leela who helps Maria at the home and the café and is the only person who can communicate with the speech- and hearing-challenged boy who saw the murder.

Inspector Chand is more concerned about his marriage than the murder under his jurisdiction. He has a crush on Maria but knows his mother will not approve of her as his bride. Maria herself is chasing after Francis though she knows he’s not the marrying kind. She has another suitor in Bobby Menzes.

In the middle of all this is Rana Hooda, his wife, and his Russian mistress Olga. As soon as Olga makes her entry, you know she’s bad news. And it’s not too much of a stretch to figure out who the murderer is but that doesn’t stop you from reading on.

Bulbul Sharma keeps you turning the pages with her descriptions of the places and people and the conversations. Prema’s acerbic comments, Deven’s staccato outbursts, Rosie’s reflections, Olga’s machinations… all coalesce into a fun read. And you get a happy ending.

What more do you want from a summer read?

Murder at the Happy Home for the Aged, Bulbul Sharma, Penguin, ₹299

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