The book I read had such a boring cover I thought this was more suited for the read!
Set in Simla a little before India got Independence, the town is an absolute frontier town. We have smuggling - people, arms, jewels, opium. You name it and its there. We have the stalwarts of an established very British society - the police in full force, we have the administration in full sway and we have the collection of English people who have made Simla their home away from home together with English style cottages and English style gardens. We also have those who have something to hide or who want to hide away from society in Europe and have ended in this town knowing that the possibility of their skeleton in the closet being discovered is unlikely.
Set amongst a pine scented cooling forest (as against the heat and humidity of India) and the hectic social life of a vice regal court we have a very unusual woman (for the times) in the form of Alice Conyors Sharpe. She runs the empire of ITCC and has taken it from strength to strength from the time she took over the reigns of governance. Alice came to this position with the tragic death of her young brother and is presently a person to be reckoned with in the rich commercial field of India.
This is not a story of romantic Simla however. We have a detective from New Scotland Yard no less - who has been asked to come to Simla to investigate a murder. En route to Simla he dramatically encounters another murder, with him as the only witness and it is touch and go whether he was the intended victim or not. The story develops from there with Sandilands the detective, along with Carter of the local Simla police force and the Governor of Bengal Sir George trying to solve not just one or two murders but a hitherto uninvestigated third.
The unravelling not just of murders but also of fraud, gun running, subterfuge and blackmail is the story of Ragtime in Simla. Beautifully descriptive as well, I enjoyed this story very much.