Barbara Cleverly, Ragtime in Simla Reviews

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“Ragtime in Simla ”


written by Harriet Klausner on 08/09/2004

Ragtime in Simla
Barbara Cleverly
Dell, Nov 2004, $6.99, 353 pp.
ISBN: 0440242231

In 1919, Alice Conyers reaches Paris, the first leg of her trek to India to take over the reigns of the Imperial and Colonial Trading Corporation. Since the death of her brother Lionel during World War I, she inherited 51% of the stock while her second cousin who she plans to marry owns the rest. However, their train falls into a ravine killing almost all on board. Alice continues on to India where she makes her firm a success.

In 1922, in Northern India, Scotland Yard Detective Joe Sandilands has finished up his tour of duty in India and is now the guest of Sir George Jardine, Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. He plans to spend a month in the guest cottage at Simla at the base of the Himalayas. Joe gives a lift to Russian opera singer Feador Korosovsky and witnesses his murder in the car driving them to Sir George. He reports the homicide and learns that Lionel, Alice's brother, died in the same spot with the same MO. Sir George asks Joe to help the authorities. He does, finding all roads lead to Alice and that train wreck.

Barbara Cleverly has written a fantastic historical police procedural about a time when India learned it was the equal of their occupiers and wanted freedom from British rule. The exotic locale enhances the mystery and romance by adding an aura of danger to the westerners. The protagonist is an enigma who readers will not like; while the antagonist receives empathy though the choices that person made were criminal. RAGTIME IN SIMLA provides readers with a sense of time and place during the final hours before the sunset of the British Empire.

Harriet Klausner

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