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January 1, 2013

Book Review - 108 : JFK

Author : Jhangir Kerawala
Publisher : Grey Oak / Westland

JFK ... A dying man’s last word ... A plea, an accusation or a clue? That’s what the police couldn’t figure out. What they did know was that they had serial murders in broad daylight, and just one suspect with little motive ... Jatin F. Karunamoi, the dead man’s best friend. Jatin is no hero; he’s an unemployed 50-year-old, desperate to find a job. But his only hope for a life of dignity lies in him finding the real killer. As he jumps headlong into the investigation he has little idea what he’s getting into ... a hunt for the faceless murderer. Each step Jatin takes to unravel the mystery brings him closer to insanity as he encounters unimaginable situations, devious characters, intrigue and ... death.

Jatin steps deeper and deeper into unfamiliar terrain and then the story does a tailspin connect with a crime-that-happened, a real time one that you and I have shuddered over on many a morning news paper. Yes, the police is on the scene alright, but Jatin, the average Bengali guy, has this love-hate relationship with the police officer investigating the crime, and there is even a woman or two and secret societies on the scene, but it all ties up at the end, well almost. The description of Kolkata and the daily life is lucid and evokes a warm response.

However, the narration is slightly ponderous at occasions and it even hinders the pace at which a reader wants to follow the solving of the crime. The twists and turns of the story hints Bollywood, and a Mango-man type in the lead is what makes it intriguing during the reading. But there are plot points that look out of place, specially the secret society in Kolkata. The second part of the book in particular is a drag with narrative moving out of Kolkata and seems to go on  for pages without achieving anything of substance. At this point, the intention of reading a tight thriller is withered away by introducing newer characters and unnecessary sub-plots which takes the focus away from the murder mystery completely.

I am going with 2.5/5 for Jhangir Keriwala's debut novel 'JFK'. It starts with a promise and the first part is written well. Wish you can say the same for the second part and the overall novel. An opportunity to have a tight thriller set in the background of Kolkata seems wasted. A one-time read for those mystery enthusiasts.

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