The third in Woodman’s series about a Scottish expatriate living among other lovable eccentrics in a northern Indian village.
It’s the early 1960s, and Jana Bibi (born Janet Laird), 60 herself, and her garrulous parrot, Mr. Ganguly, continue their harmonious existence in the bustling fictional hamlet of Hamara Nagar. India’s social ills are far from the foreground but surface in the back stories of two characters: Mary, Jana’s longtime housekeeper and cook, who ran away from an abusive arranged marriage in South India, and Tilku, an orphan boy, who was rescued by Jana. (Long widowed, she was married to a missionary and lost both her husband and two daughters to smallpox.) News from her son, Jack, now a successful Glasgow engineer, unsettles Jana’s routine of regular lunches with the town’s two movers and shakers, newspaper editor Rambir and resale merchant Ramachandran. Jack’s letter announces his engagement to Katarina, a Hungarian refugee, and the couple plans a spring visit. However, Jolly Grant House, the genteelly crumbling compound Jana inherited from her grandfather, is in no shape for visitors, nor, dare Jana hope, a wedding! The house needs a total overhaul, everything from such basics as a hot-water heater to new curtains and carpets. But Jana’s finances are strained not only by Tilku’s boarding school tuition, but by a local policeman’s frequent visits to extract ever more fanciful fines. Reluctantly, she pawns her prized emerald necklace and earrings to a local jeweler. Romance begins to burgeon elsewhere in Jana’s entourage: Mary and Jacob John, caretakers to Jana’s elderly friend Sylvia, have Catholicism and enthusiasm for Bollywood movies in common, and Jana herself wonders if anything could bloom between her and her travel writer friend, Kenneth. Further complications arise—Tilku is having trouble at school, and Katarina is, to Mary’s horror, a picky eater. But such crises are quickly resolved, as if Woodman were hesitant to let real life intrude on such pleasant fiction.
A cozy nonmystery that will be welcomed by Woodman’s loyal following.