Saturday 7 April 2018

Hist Fic Saturday ~ Offstage in Nuala by Harriet Steel

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to ... Ceylon, 1936

Stane Street Press

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book

Offstage in Nuala is the third book in the Inspector de Silva mysteries which takes us back to the 1930s, and to the days of Colonial Ceylon. 

A travelling theatre company has arrived in Nuala and there is great excitement when their production of Hamlet opens to a packed audience. The great and the good of the community are gathered there, including Inspector de Silva and his lovely wife, Jane. 

Just a few nights later, the Inspector receives a telephone call, informing him of an incident which has occurred at the theatre where, to his consternation, he discovers that the company's actor manager has been murdered. Fraught with complications from the very start of the investigation, the inspector finds that he has several possible leads to consider however, tracking down the perpetrator of this heinous crime is never going to be easy, especially when de Silva seems to be thwarted at every turn by his superior, Assistant Government Agent, Archie Clutterbuck. 

What I love about this series is the absolute authenticity of the historical detail. From de Silva's leisurely drive to work in his stately Morris, to relaxing on the veranda in the cool of the evening, the Ceylonese way of life comes to life. The colonial splendour of the Residence, Clutterback's palatial home, is often the scene of some delicious humour and de Silva's obvious discomfort at visiting his boss there always leaves me with a smile on my face, 

The mystery at the heart of the story is well contrived and I enjoyed trying to figure out the clues alongside the Inspector, who, as always, has great support from Jane, who continues to be his sounding block and that still small voice of calm when all seems to be going awry. That the investigation has its complexities is what gives the book its characteristic sharpness and it is in the small details where the author really excels. 

The writing is as crisp as ever and just as sharply observed with some very fine attention to detail, particularly about what happens backstage in a provincial theatre. I enjoyed exploring the nooks and crannies of Nuala's Gaiety Theatre with its crumbly corridors and dodgy stage trap.
The Inspector de Silva mysteries are beautifully written historical crime stories with more than a hint of humour and quite enough mystery to keep you guessing from start to finish.

You can find out more about the author on her blog

Follow on Twitter @harrietsteel1

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