Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Mahabharta Murders by Arnab ray

Rating: 4/5
Read between August 21st 2017 to August 27th 2017

Edition Details:
Format : Paperback
Page Count: 291
Publisher: Juggernaut Books
ISBN:9789386228369


First Sentence:
This bothers me.

A serial killer is on the loose in Kolkatta. He seems to think he's Duryodhna and wants vengeance. He has identified his Pandavas and his Draupadi and wouldn't stop until he has killed them all.

He has killed gruesomely three times and every time there is a panel of Amar Chitra Katha accompanying the body. The panel depicts the character that he has eliminated. He has taken out Draupadi, Sahdev and Nakul.

But that is not all. Police have also found a poster of Pavitra Chatterjee, a prominent politician, in the vicinity of the victims.They think killer is sending them the message and that Pavitra Chatterjee is someway related to these murders. Is he the perpetrator or the final victim? He may be any one of these but he's powerful and he doesn't want any scandal just before the elections. So, it's necessary keep a lid on this investigation and make sure nothing goes out.

Detective Ruksana Ahmed and Siddhant Singh have been assigned the case. Would they be able to identify who the killer is? Who are the next victims? Would they be able to save them? Or would Duryodhna would finally be able to extract his pound of flesh out of the Pandavas?

Main Characters:
Ruksana Ahmed - The police officer that was appointed to the case
Bijoy Da - The resident forensics expert of Kolkotta Police
Devika Lahiri - The model and actress. The first victim.
Tanya Saha - Devika's roommate
Siddhant Singh- Partner of Ruksana
Pavitra Chatterjee - A famous politician who has an image of being honest. His posters are left by killer in the vicinity of murders.
Vicky Patel- Movie Producer. He gave work to devika and Tanya
Salim - Ruksana's ten year old son
Javed - Rusksana's husband
Prakash Sharma - A technocrat and second victim
Kanika Bose - Partner of Prakash Sharma
Abirlal - Advisor of Pavitra Chatterjee
Bipul Bannerjee - Winner of a dancing reality show. The third victim.
Barkat Ali - The guy who used to run Empire Dhaba
Irshad - Local MLA who owned the Dhaba
Shamsuddin - Irshad's eldest son
Shushmita Talukdar- Joint Commissioner of Police for crime

Mahabharta Murders is the fifth novel of Arnab Ray and the third one by him that i have read. It has always been a delight to read him. One of the reasons for that is that he dabbles in so many literary genres, so as a reader i'm curious that what will he offer next. I started with Mine which was a horror novel then came Sultan of Delhi which was a thriller and now this which is as hard boiled as they come.

As i said above it's a hard boiled detective novel and that has always been my favourite genre.  The book moves at a great pace and keeps the reader on its toes.  The dialogues and writing are crisp. I really liked the one liners that are interspersed throughout the book. The characters complement the atmosphere of the book.

The protagonist is Ruksana Ahmed who works in a Kolkatta police and the story is narrated by her. I have always liked first person narratives. The reader gets to be in the head of a protagonist and make it's easier to connect with the character. I think  it was a first time i was reading a hardboiled novel with a woman protagonist. The only thing that comes close for me is watching Jessica Jones on Netflix. That show has the same tone. Ruksana is as brooding and dark as any of the male detectives that i have read in this genre and it was fun going with her on this investigation.

I really liked Ruksana and her flaws. The thing is she may be a policewoman but she is broken human too. I was reading the book and wondering why most of the protagonists in these noir and hardboiled novels have protagonists that are always facing these internal demons while battling the outer ones. I think that just adds extra grittiness to the atmosphere of the book. In Ruksana's case these demons have started very early in her life. Although, she's a hardass cop but her personal life is in shambles. She's abused there and often seems helpless in those situations.The reader is shown her life in backflashes and we get to know why she has become what she has become. I thought she had low self esteem and that was the reason why she suffered the abuse in her personal life and did nothing about it. There is a scene in a book that jolted me when i read it.

Here is the paragraph:

I wonder if it is his wife. I know he got married recently, but i can't recollect who and what she looks like. I think i didn't see Zoom TV that night. May be i was getting beaten up.

When i read it i had to close the book for sometime. The casual way in which she talks about her getting beaten up shook something in me. It was like the thing was so normal for her. It irritated me because she was not some powerless housewife but someone who had power and was trained to deal with such abusers. But as i read more i get to know her. I could feel for her but in the same time i wanted to tell her to buck up and do what she knows she has to do. This track in the book apart from the investigation of murders really interested me.

Another thing that that i found interesting was to be in the head of a female lead and see her drool over various men. I know women do it but still they are too subtle about it. Here we were privy to those emotions and it made me chuckle sometimes. They were cute, the parts where she's thinking about the men and how they are sexually affecting her.

There was also one more scene that i liked. It was between Sushmita Talukdar and Ruksana. I thought that time that Sushmita was just acting like a bitch but after thinking i got to understand her point of view too. She was talking from experience and what other people's perception is such cases. That's is also something a woman has to face and i'm glad that scene was placed there.

I really liked the way Ruksana's character grows during the story. I wish Arnab turns it into a series. I would love to see her tackle some more bad guys.

Now, coming to the subject of the book. I got interested in that just by reading the blurb. I don't think there is any Indian who would be unaware of Mahabharata and its characters. So i was curious as to how Arnab weaves his story around the characters and i liked the way he has done it.

Plus, until now i had really thought Nakul and Sahdev were useless. I often used to wonder why were they in the Mahabharata. I mean there were Bheem, arjun and Yudhihstra. They all had something important to do in Mahabharata but Nakul and Sahdev i didn't know what their qualities were. I used to think they were like  Hawkeye in the avengers, pretty insignificant. Here i got to know more about them and found out that they had something after all. I also liked the spin that Arnab has given to the various characteristics of Pandava. There was a new perspective there which i liked especially what Arnab has done to Yudhistar. It was something that perfectly fits.

Now,as i already said the story is fast paced and that keeps reader hooked. Arnab threw a red-herring but i don't think any one who reads mystery would fall for that. I wish i could believe it. I knew there was something more coming although what that more was i didn't really know and that was good for the book.

Although one part i could guess as easily when Ruksana did and i was right about that. But there were other things that i didn't know so that felt good. It's great when in a mystery there are somethings that you can't figure out. That makes it a more satisfying read.

There was one thing that irked me though.There were not enough clues about the killer in the narrative. I like a mystery in which there are subtle clues left by the author throughout the book and i have to go back and see them when the detective points them out. There was one slight hint but that was not that good that would make think 'how could i have missed it'. It's that vague. If those clues would have been there i think i would have been more satisfied.

If you guys are looking for a thrilling read then you wouldn't go wrong with this one. I'm glad Arnab has again given such a good read. After Sultan of Delhi i had higher expectations from him and i'm glad this one meets it.

Some lines from the book:

Even at eight, i knew that somehow those who live have to answer for the dead.

They deserve each other, this city and death. They do.

"No" is like cleaning fluid, scrub it enough and scrub it hard, and even the most stubborn stains, like that homo dead on the road, go away. Say "yes" and the police shove the "y" of the yes up your ass.

Finding idiots bigger than you. Isn't that what business do.

Truth. It's sharper than the knife and digs deeper than an axe, and leaves exit wounds that remain forever open.
'The most powerful weapon in the world. Truth,' he says,'against which the only shield is, strangely, denial.'

That's the secret of arousal. Something new. The old we don't experience it any more, we just sample a few elements and our consciousness fills up the rest.

No expectations., no future, no hope.
Because if i have learnt one thing, it's that hoping the next moment will be better hollows the present moment forever.
A friend. That's all i need. And sex once i a while.
Okay. More than once in a while.

If you have read the book then do tell me what did you thought about it. What did you like? What you didn't?

If you haven't read the book, you can get it from the following link:
Amazon

FTC: Full disclosure
I got a copy from the publisher in a exchange of an honest review.

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