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April 27, 2015

Book Review - 191 : Banquet on the Dead

Author : Sharath Komarraju
Publisher : Westland 

Kauveramma, the matriarch of a prominent family, falls into a well and drowns. The only curious detail is that there was no water in her lungs. Kauveramma was terrified of water, which raises the question of what she was doing at the well at the time of death and the possibility of foul play. Detective Pasha and Inspector Nagarajan’s investigation begins with a series of interviews with Kauveramma’s sons and daughters.

What makes the novel stand out is an almost Agatha Christie-sh kind of investigation treatment - each character has a motive to kill and each of them has an alibi to believe in. Author's way with words - in terms of scene visualization is captivating and an attempt not to deliberately try to dumb down the language is well appreciated. (something which a lot of current crop of novelists do). Pasha's subtle reading of clues - in view of body language, hand movements and reading in between the lines is what gives the story the necessary strength. The narrative is easy and the settings provides an almost countryside like calmness to the investigation.

Not all of the characters are well etched and the initial build up is excruciatingly slow. There seems to be an almost deliberate attempt to confuse readers with too many characters even though you can easily guess before hand that some of them has absolutely nothing to do with the murder. I was also disappointed that after initial few chapters - Pasha's shayari lines go out of the narrative and all we are left with is a stereotypical miyan fumbling Hyderabadi guy.

I am going with 3/5 for Sharath's 'Banquet on the dead'. I was not cent percent happy with how the actual murder take place - it is far fetched to have been done in that way. But nitpicking apart, it is a watertight murder mystery that deserves your time. Will be happy to read more only if author promises to give Pasha another novel to bring in those cheesy shayari lines again to the readers!

April 6, 2015

Book Review - 190 : Dead Meat

Publisher :  Penguin Books
Author :  Ankush Saikia

A body has been recovered from a tandoor oven, A young accountant is missing with a suitcase full of cash and a city in the heady grip of T20 fever with the annual championship playing on. This provides a eye catching background for private detective Arjun Arora who works the streets of Delhi dealing with the shady underbelly of the capital city. Hired to track down a missing person, Arjun stumbles upon a gruesome murder where the suspects seem to be linked to something larger and more sinister.

Dead Meat : There's a butcher on the loose is a part noir and part detective story. Saikia takes time to set in the story in with numerous characters and it does ramble on a snail pace while introducing each of them. The sweat and smell of Delhi is interspersed, first at a superficial level and then almost forced into the narrative, just like how Delhi is with its residents. The author does not shy away in dealing with real people across various strata of society - there is an almost underlining of creating a class distinction between the haves and havenots of the society during the investigation. 

There are portions of ultimate patience which you need to display as a reader because nothing really happens. The back story of Arjun's divorce and current fling provides nothing but cheap redemption to his personality. Arjun has a drinking problem and frankly, too much word space is given to this constant habit even while he is solving riddles to get to the killer. The plot points by the end are hazy and not all add up to the narrative. At over 400 pages, the narrative is way too long and leaves you exhausted as a reader feeling helpless just like Arjun being constantly stuck in traffic.

I am going with 3/5 for Dead Meat by Ankush Saikia. Much shorter in length and a bit fast paced, this could have been a great thriller set in Delhi. An opportunity not fully utilized.