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by Rumer Godden

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-688-15550-2
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

 About to celebrate her 90th birthday, Godden, author of over 60 books for adults and children, again writes with grace and a cheerfully lilting prose, evoking the mannered high-style of a cultivated English/Indian backwater. Based on an actual case involving the theft of a statue of the god Shiva (in which the god, Acting Through the Government of India, became the plaintiff), this is a tale of quiet sleuthing, romance, and grand tragedy, set in a present-day Indian coastal hotel of minimal comforts but top-notch cuisine, courtesies, and clientele. Junior barrister Michael Dean, of a prestigious London firm, was raised in India and is now chosen to track down the thief who has made off with a priceless, revered statue of the god Shiva (in his manifestation as Lord of the Dance). The statue, an object of veneration, had long been resident in Patna Hall, a grandly veranda-ed hotel for the cultivated traveler (or those determined to be so). The hotel, managed by the elderly Englishwoman Miss Sanni, is where a visiting professor discovers that an elegant copy has been substituted for the god's statue. Joined by Dutta, an Indian Chief Inspector, Michael not only turns up both clues and questions in the hotel and in the marketplace, but also finds heated romance with cool, fascinating Artemis Knox, who arrives with a ``cultural'' group. Could the thieves have been old servants who worried that the hotel was in financial trouble? Could-- certainly not!--Miss Sanni herself have sought such a solution? The truth, when revealed, will bring love and death in its wake. A delight for Godden's many followers, one encompassing the experience of the beauties and traditions of India, the richness of its religions, and Godden's own essential dash of gallantry and grand gestures.