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by Conrad Allen
St Martin's Minotaur, April 2005
272 pages
ISBN: 0312307934

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Genevieve Masefield and George Porter Dillman are traveling on the Salsette from Bombay to Aden. From Aden, they plan to travel back to England and continue with their profession. They are employed as ship detectives and their objective is to mingle with the other passengers in order to gauge their behaviors and activities.

By not advertising their profession, they are able to investigate a crime as well as research alibis without attracting attention. In addition, they are able to win the trust of those around them. This trust makes it easier for them to find the criminal once a crime is committed. Their method has worked well in the past and regardless of their changing personal relationship, they will continue to use this ruse.

As the Salsette is traveling from India, a large majority of the passengers have either lived or worked in this country. The ship has Indian servants, high-placed Indians, British citizens who reap the benefits of imperialism, and tourists.

Dillman befriends Dudley Nevin, a British employee, who hates the country and wishes to return to England. Masefield finds herself attached to a traveling mother and daughter. The mother is in a wheelchair so Masefield finds herself amazed at their decision to go traveling in such inconvenient places.

Unfortunately, Dillman and Masefield do not have the chance to enjoy their new friends as a string of petty thefts begins in second class. Before that investigation has the chance to progress, Nevin is murdered. As it seems unlikely that the two crimes are connected, Dillman takes the murder investigation and Masefield follows through on the robberies. They must quickly find their answers before the killer strikes again or their cover is blown by unhappy robbery victims.

MURDER ON THE SALSETTE is intended as a lighthearted mystery, although it also provides opinions about British imperialism and India. The book presents characters that support both sides of the issue. Dillman supports the idea of Indian independence because he believes everyone has the right to make their own choices. Many of the other characters in this book feel that his decision is based upon his own heritage - he is American - than on practical realities.

The Kinnersley family takes a different view. They have made a life for themselves based upon the idea that the Indians need to be servants and do not have the intelligence to live on their own. Both Major Kinnersley and his wife are disagreeable people and treat their Indian servant horribly.

While these three characters have clear-cut opinions on India, the majority of the other characters do not. For example, the primary suspect for the robbery is an Indian man. He was seen during two of the robberies but was not seen handling any of the stolen goods. This situation becomes tricky because one has to wonder if he was only noticed because he was different from the other European travelers or if he was noticed because he was the thief. By using a historical example of imperialism and the concept of a foreigner as being a lesser being, Allen forces the reader to evaluate their opinion about current situations and politics.

MURDER ON THE SALSETTE continues the entertaining series that began with MURDER ON THE LUSITANIA. Genevieve Masefield and George Porter Dillman continue to grow as characters. They have changed greatly from where they were when the series began. Their continuing growth and development keeps the books fresh and amusing.

Reviewed by Sarah Dudley, April 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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