Death Under the Deodars by Ruskin Bond is a lengthy story but not a novella. Set in Mussoorie, the year is 1967. This story has many characters only to make it look more thrilling. Though it is a murder mystery but the beautiful thing about this story is that the criminal is being caught without a proper investigation.
The Royal hotel before independence belonged to the father of Miss Ripley-Bean, she was sixty eight and still spinster. Her father passed it to Nandu on one condition that two rooms should be allotted permanently to his daughter Miss Ripley-Bean. So, she was the permanent resident of that hotel. Every year the hotel hosted its Annual Flower Show in the month of October. Flower enthusiasts and expert gardeners would bring in the flowers for competition. The awards were given by the Princess of Kapurthala.
Characters like retired colonel Bakshi, Miss Gamlah, Nandu, the hotel pianist Lobo, Miss Ripley-Bean, Dr Reinhardt the dentist and many other people were there in the flower exhibition. While prize distribution was taking place inside, Miss Ripley-Bean came outside and sat under the deodar trees. On the opposite wall she saw the two large shadows – two people were fighting. She couldn’t apprehend who they were. As she got up to go inside she noticed a man running before her. Soon, it came out that Mrs. Basu was murdered. But why? She had no enemies, though she was in the game of exchanging lovers and was the owner of a guest house.
Miss Ripley-Bean saw the fight scene vaguely but she decided to keep quiet. At night there was someone who was scratching against her bedroom’s window panes. She knew that the killer wanted to finish her off to erase all the evidences. Ironically, she hadn’t seen him. Moreover, her toothache began troubling her. Fluff – her pet dog would grunt or bark whenever there was a sign of someone on the window pane. The dog being loyal was guarding her.
After the funeral of Mrs. Basu, next day she went to the clinic of Dr. Reinhardt, the dentist. He surfaced the death topic of Mrs. Basu. He admitted that he killed her because she was blackmailing him for money. Why… Miss Ripley-Bean asked while sitting on the chair, her mouth opened for the procedure of taking out her aching tooth. Dr Reinhardt said because she was about to open his secret that he was a Nazi who worked in a concentration camp. His job there was to check the teeth filling for gold of Jews before sending them inside. He was a killer and when the Nazi was defeated, he ran away and landed in India.
Now it was Miss Ripley Bean’s turn to die since she half seen the murder. Then, he prepared a poisonous double dose injection for her. Miss Ripley-Bean screamed at the top of her voice for help and no sooner than he could act Fluff, the dog, came barking inside and behind him was the pianist Lobo. Reinhardt got caught for no reason, he felt his end, and then injected that injection in his own forearm. He was dead. The mystery was solved. Written in a very simple and lucid way – too many characters and no detective but still readers read the book till end. That’s the charm of his writing. Well, it is clear now that the story was centered on Miss Ripley-Bean.