Thursday, May 7, 2020

"Kiss Miss" by Leigh Copeland

Jonathan Prosper, 25, lives in Calcutta. It’s 1935, the twilight of the British Raj in India. Prosper is trying to make enough and save enough money to finish his education in England. He has a tea business doing moderately well and a few other small business interests. To supplement what he makes, he undertakes investigations, primarily for the resident Britons.

He lives in not the best part of Calcutta, but not the worst, either. His next-door neighbor operates a rooming house, and she calls him to help with an unexpected visitor. American travel writer Kandy Kincaid has arrived in borrowed clothes, rather disheveled looking, and with no money. She’s been in the north, surviving an arduous trek and housed for a time in a Buddhist monastery. She’s been out of circulation for months, and she’s pleased to discover that her books are selling well. She has a new book to write, and Prosper offers her a room and his typewriter. Soon she’s dominating his typewriter. And more.

The Destranges, English friends of Prosper living in a well-known Calcutta housing compound, seek his help. Construction work on their tennis court has uncovered a skeleton, dressed in Victorian clothes and still wearing jewelry. The newspapers have a field day. The police are baffled, but the Destranges think that Prosper might uncover the dead woman’s identity by going through the voluminous records in their library. 

Leigh Copeland
Prosper will find more than he’s looking for. It isn’t just one dead woman. And then a young woman staying with the Destranges is found dead in the pavilion next to the tennis court.

Kiss Miss by Leigh Copeland in one of five novels in the Jonathan Prosper series. And it’s pitch perfect, credibly transporting the reader back to the waning days of the Raj, and giving an insightful taste of the reality of the class structure, the streets, and the passions underlying all those proper British manners. 

Born in Melbourne, Australia, Copeland graduated in Politics and Sociology at Monash University. He and his wife operate a business dealing in antique carpets and rare textiles from Afghanistan and India, and he’s made more than 50 trips to the two countries. He’s published five novels in the Jonathan Prosper series: Where Gods DwellThe Body in the BokharaKiss MissFull Moon, and Calcutta Cabob

Kiss Miss is a fascinating mystery and a great story. I was so impressed that I bought Where Gods Dwell, and I can’t wait to read it. If you like historical crime fiction written extremely well, this novel has just about everything that could be offered. 

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