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• Saturday, March 03rd, 2007

Barbara Cleverly has been a teacher in Cambridge and today lives in a medieval house in an English Suffolk village. She has been a teacher of French, English and Latin, but stopped working in order to dedicate herself to writing full-time.

Barbara Cleverly is the inventor of the Scotland Yard detective, Joe Sandilands, and his adventurous investigations in India.

“The Palace Tiger” is Barbara Cleverly’s fourth novel. The first was “The Last Kashmiri Rose” published in 2001. This was followed by “Ragtime In Simla” in 2002, and by “Damascene Blade” in 2003. Her fourth novel, “The Palace Tiger” was published in 2004, and her fifth was “The Bee’s Kiss” which first appeared in 2005.

Her annually published novels are mysteries solved by the clever British detective, Sandilands, a First World War hero.

Barbara Cleverly explains how she had the idea of writing a series of books all taking place in India. “The battered old tin trunk I found in the attic didn’t look inviting at first sight. Full of family bits and pieces, my husband said. You know, sepia postcards from the Pyrenees, funeral lists, old bank books…” “I opened it anyway. Out spilled more than two centuries of memories, the memories of a family whose exploits and achievements marched in time with the flowering of the British Empire, a family of soldiers, statesmen, architects, doctors and explorers, but my attention was caught by the photograph of a young boy.

Handsome even by today’s standards, his resemblance to my stepson, even down to the haircut, was extraordinary. “Ah, that’s Brigadier Harold Sandilands, my husband explained, when he was a schoolboy at Harrow. My great uncle spent a lot of time in India.”

“The Palace Tiger”, like Barbara Cleverly’s other four novels, is a Whodunit à la Agatha Christie. Joe Sandilands, a Scotland Yarder, finds himself compelled to unravel the mysterious deaths of the dying Maharajah’s three sons and heirs as well as to eliminate a man-eating tiger terrorizing the northern villages. The whole complicated plot takes place in Ranipur in India. The author doesn’t miss an opportunity to describe in detail and in a colourful way, 1920’s colonial India.

The Maharajah’s luxurious palaces, the harem’s quarter, their clothing, their day-to-day life, the death rituals. The beautiful gardens and lake, but most important the conspiracy between different people in the palace. Each character serves a purpose in the complicated plot.

This is an action thriller which keeps the reader in suspense until the end. A good, rich description also of Machiavellic ambitions and greedy characters. All together a very colourful, thrilling and entertaining book.