06 August, 2016

#BookReview :: City of Death by Abheek Barua

On a muggy monsoon afternoon Sohini Sen gets a call from the chief minister's office. A young woman from a well-connected family in the city has been found brutally murdered. Sen is brought back from a bureaucratic wasteland to the thick of the action.

An intelligent and intuitive investigator who struggles with addiction and depression, Sen is ill-prepared for an investigation that is a political minefield with TV anchors and tabloids baying for blood. As various interested parties, armed with power and money, try to manipulate the murder enquiry. Sen is forced to question the very possibility of justice. 

A moody atmospheric novel that is as much about the Indian city and the dark depth of the human mind as it is about crime and investigation, City of Death marks the debut of a brilliant new voice.

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It has been quite a few days since I finished reading this book, yet as I finally sit down to write this review I am feeling quite conflicted. Read on to know why!

City of Death is set in the City of Joy, Kolkata, where it focuses on two people – the protagonist and the antagonist. The antagonist in this case is a serial killer who is trying, if I can put it this way, to find his ‘voice’ through his kills. The killer and his handiwork, especially his latest victim, have the city gripped in both excitement and fear.  The high profile of the latest victim ensures a flurry of action and more than enough media coverage. The protagonist is Sohini Sen, an investigator with the crime branch who is almost broken by the bureaucracy and politics of the system. She is brought back into the fold to investigate the case. There is a pressure on her to close the case as soon as possible, irrespective of whether justice is served or not. Will Sohini be able to tackle all the hurdles put in her way and catch the perpetrator? Or will she fail and the killer finally perfect his ways?

The author has to be given credit for an amazing opening to the book. First few pages and I was totally hooked to the book! It gave me a sense of something brilliant awaiting me in the coming pages and I was so excited about the prospect of reading a truly gripping thriller. For most part, the plot lives up to the reader’s expectations. Layered with action, drama and politics, the plot offers more than just the thrill of catching up with a serial killer. Page after page fly by with the reader wanting to know more. The characters are, for most part, realistic with more shades of grey than black and white. Emotions run high as the investigators are put under pressure and the killer seems to be just out of their reach making a reader wonder if this is one of those books where the antagonist proves to be too good at his game. 

All these sound good, right? So here’s why I am so conflicted about the book… It is all their, all the ingredients of a perfect thriller. Yet the actual narrative did not work for me. There are bits and patches where the author simply blows your mind with the story telling – but for most parts he lacked in details. The settings and characters are not explored as much as I would have liked and I felt that certain places needed more descriptive handling. I am a sucker for the details and as such I felt bit let down with the lack of it. It was hard to really connect with the characters and the whole set up. It was more like I was an outsider watching the scenes from high above – I could understand what is going on yet fuzzy about the details - rather than being in the thick of things. And I really didn’t enjoy the feeling that I was missing something.

So, to round up – yes, the plot is worth your time. If you are not too picky about the detailed narratives, you can certainly give this book a try. 

Review Copy received from Juggernaut

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