A Straits Settlement is the third novel of Le Fanu Mistery Serie, it means that Brian Stoddart gives life again to the superintendent Le Fanu, a maverick cop who always tries to avoid useless bureaucracy and the social patterns established, for which reason more than once he can feel the weight of frustration. As in the previous books, the plot set in 1920’s India, a country divided between the British domination and Indian independence at that time. So it not strange that one personality such known as Gandhi is appointed.
In this new story, Le Fanu is promoted to Inspector-General of Police and will have to investigate two cases: the disappearance of a senior civil service and a murder that have no apparent connection between them, although it senses that both relate to political matter. Using as background Indian geography, he will soon be involved in the activities of secret societies and the British colonial intelligence, discovering a complex network that deals with indentured labour recruitment, people smuggling and antiquities theft.
The man might be dead, of course. In some ways, Le Fanu thought grimly, that would be the best result, for the Government, if not for the victim. No embarrassing speculations or revelations. For the police it was easier to find a victim than a man who did not want to be found (…)
These events occur in parallel with his complicated relationship with Roisin (Ro), his Anglo-Indian lover and former housekeeper. A lover fusion that seems to have a base strong, however, in appearance is fragile as the glass.
Fanu was waylaid by a section on “Illusions of Memory.” Maybe that was his problem. The past was definitely better than the present professionally, but perhaps he was deluding himself. Similarly, his personal life was much better six months ago. Perhaps he was dwelling on rather than confronting those illusions.
The Stoddart’s style of writing is fluid, and no doubt he knows how to benefit from historical and geographical circumstances and how to use them to keep the plot flowing well. As a whole, it is a mystery novel (with some romanticism) very entertaining, as well as a simple instructive exercise to know the India of the 20s.