Death in Shambles

Lionel Carmichael, a retired police deputy inspector general, is looking forward to living a quiet, solitary life in the hill station of Debrakot, with an assortment of eccentric neighbours for occasional company. His plans are upended when he is asked by a former colleague, SHO Thapliyal, to help out in a double murder case. The scene of the crime is the ghostly Shambala Villa, or ‘Shambles’, as it is known to the residents of the town, named thus due to its decrepit appearance. The victims of the brutal crimes are Reuben Sabharwal, a self-styled god-man who dabbles in the mysterious and occult, and an unknown woman, dressed in a pale green sari, found hanging by a noose near Reuben’s body.

Trudging through the monsoon rains of Debrakot, Lionel embarks on his journey towards the truth, only to become more and more entangled in a web of deceit and lies. Even as a myriad powerful forces attempt to stop him, Lionel continues to push for the truth—until the sleepy little hill station finally gives up its grim secrets.


Death in Shambles is a masterclass in layered and understated writing. A must read.

Lamat R Hasan, The Hindustan Times

An idyllic hill station, a double murder and a retired cop… Death in Shambles is noir most sordid. Alter’s whodunit is a thought-provoking, entertaining and occasionally witty look at modern Indian society.

Madhulika Liddle, The Indian Express

Stephen Alter has done a marvellous job with this hill station murder mystery…. The fine description and detailing of how the police operates, how people come under the lens of suspicion and the tricks police officials employ to get to the culprit, all add to the originality of the book.

Chandni S. Chandel, The Tribune