The Tree Bears Witness – Book Review

The Tree Bears Witness

Cover – The Tree Bears Witness

The Tree Bears Witness

Book Review:

Book: The Tree Bears Witness

Author: Sharath Komarraju

Reviewed By: Manas Mukul

Publisher: Westland (17 November 2017)

Price: 350 INR

Pages: 250 (Paperback)

ISBN-10: 9386850443

ISBN-13: 978-9386850447

Language: English

My rating: 3.5/5

Keeping in sync with the author – reviewer relationship I again get an opportunity to review Sharath Komarraju’s work, his latest, The Tree Bears Witness’. This time it’s the publication Westland’s marketing team, which is taking the initiative – all kudos to them.

Every childhood in India has encountered an ‘Akbar Birbal’ story at some stage or the other – who can forget the epic ‘Birbal ki Khichadi’. After successfully biting into the Mahabharata with his Hastinapur series, Sharath Komarraju now tries to reincarnate the duo with his spin of storytelling to the tales. ‘The Tree Bears Witness’ is his second novel in the Birbal series.

The story revolves around real characters from Emperor Akbar and his Rajput wife Jodha’s life, which gives it a very real feel and makes you think on several occasions whether this story is actually true or not. Frankly speaking I am not sure myself. The main plot is shrouded around the mysterious death of the newly wed Jodha’s brother Sujjamal. Sujjamal, along with other royal guests, was still staying back in the palace after Akbar and Jodha’s marriage when the unfortunate event takes place.

Emperor Akbar, as is in the case of every mystery escapade, entrusts his most intelligent ‘Navratna’…Mahesh Das aka Birbal to come up with the answers. The mystery is heightened by the fact that the eyewitnesses to the murder are a couple of guards, who at the time of murder were in an inebriated state. They both have blurry conflicting versions of the murder, which makes the plot even murkier. Birbal has to finally rely on a Tree to serve as a witness…yeah you read it correct…The Tree is the Witness here.

Sketch of Palace Garden

Sketch of Palace Garden

Like his previous work Sharath doesn’t waste much time and straightaway gets into top gear. By the 10th page we encounter the murder and the story never runs out of breathe from there. It has a commendable pace, which keeps the reader hooked-on all throughout the book. I completed the book in flat eight hours, which is the fastest for me. The pace is also helped by the vocabulary which is neither too naïve nor too complex. I was really impressed how Sharath has given a sketch of the palace garden in the beginning of the book, where the actual murder takes place. It really helps the reader’s curiosity in trying to figure out the killer.

You can tell that a murder mystery is good from the simple fact that you have multiple suspects, each with a strong motive of their own. Here Sharath very masterfully incorporates this where we have many suspects including Sujjamal’s own blood relatives. It goes to an extent where it doesn’t even spare Emperor Akbar, who is in a way responsible to get the mystery solved.

The character sketching is also great. The writer has smartly given a peek into everyone’s mind where you encounter political intrigue, personal enmities and hidden rivalries.

The only negative I found was, if you read attentively you will be able to guess the murderer by the time you reach two-third of the book. In fact the fun in ‘The Tree bears Witness doesn’t lie in that. The ride is exhilarating from the fact how Birbal uncovers ‘how’ the murder was committed. Because when the murder happens Sujjamal was in full view of the two guards and he was standing alone.

I would take this opportunity to congratulate Sharath where he has successfully teleported his career from a 9-5 corporate job to full time writer. He is skill-fully mastering his craft and continuously coming up with good work.

The narrative is fluent, crisp and without too many subplots. From the first page till the last the writer never loses focus and keeps the reader engrossed and engaged. I am going with three and a half out of five for ‘The Tree Bears Witness’. Do grab a copy of this wonderfully crafted royal tale of murder and deception.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

My side of the bargain for an honest review. Find the Book here on Goodreads and Amazon


God is a Gamer – Book Review

Cover - God is a Gamer

Cover – God is a Gamer

God is a Gamer – Book Review

Author: Ravi Subramanian

Reviewed by: Manas Mukul

Price: 299 INR

Pages: 310

ISBN: 978-0-143-42139-9

My Rating: 3/5


My affair with reviewing thrillers and murder mysteries continues and I am really thankful to Blogadda to keep blessing me with one of these every other month without charging me anything. I have never read Ravi Subramanian before, though this is his sixth outing, I know for sure he has an undying love for keeping banking and financial services as a backdrop for his novels. And I could make all this just from the titles of his previous works where the word ‘Bank’ will feature in some way or the other.

My Review:

The cover of the book again has an international look and feel to it as there is a pic of White House with the shadow of a Julian Assange kind of figure overlooking White House. This is the first time any Indian writer has tried to play with ‘Bitcoins’ in any form, in fact God is a Gamer is publicized as the first Bitcoin thriller. I believe it has lot to do with Ravi Subramanian’s two decade old background in Banking Industry and he wants to bring out every shade in a thrilling format what this industry can offer to us.

The back cover page highlights, ‘What Happens When You Cross Gamer, Banker, Politician and Terrorists with Virtual Money’, so be prepared for a lot of action and a lot of characters. The book begins with the murder of a US Senator that too in an unholy manner where his car is blown into pieces. Like many characters, the story moves around a lot of locations as well. The chapters keep bouncing between these locations. I recently reviewed Private India where there was a central character and the story moves from his perspective and based on his actions and investigation. In God is a Gamer you won’t find that, at least I didn’t. The story kept juggling among the characters and it was left on the readers from whose perspective they wanted to move forward.

The story has a tremendous pace to it. If you are a regular reader you might end up finishing this one in one sitting. The vocabulary to my surprise was very mediocre but to me that’s a positive as it helps the story to move at a faster pace and you are never interrupted wondering about the meaning of any word.

The biggest positive which I felt was how Ravi used the underlying theme of banking and how he intermingled it with politics, drugs and even gaming companies. There is a good use of knowledge of IT technologies which also adds spice as it keeps your brain ticking while you are already engrossed in unearthing the killer as well as the conspirer. The very fact that how gaming companies these days are using social media to gain mileage over rivals in itself tells us that it has a very modern day feel to it, which everyone can relate to.

Though it’s racy and lot of locations, technologies and newer terms with proper information and explanation have been used I felt as if there were too many characters with too many sub plots. There were characters and names which were mentioned, you took a mental note of it only to find out later that it was non-existent for the outcome. The quality of a thriller should be that the buildup should increase the excitement and when the truth comes out one should be shocked as well as ‘goosebumped’.  God is a Gamer will disappoint you in that respect. You might even get a feel that you predicted the end. The buildup was good, which was helped by the impressive pace of the story but the climax for me was a bit rushed where the shock’n’surprise element was missing.

I am going with three out of five for Ravi Subramanian’s God is a Gamer for the simple reason that it could have been way…way better keeping in mind all the characters and locations that were added to the mix. Nonetheless, it’s a racy, informative and a good thriller.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!


Private India – Book Review

Private India – Book Review

Private India

Private India

Book Review:

Book: Private India

Author: Ashwin Sanghi & James Patterson

Reviewed By: Manas Mukul

Price: 350 INR

Pages: 450

ISBN: 978-0099586395

My rating: 3.5/5

Thank you Blogadda for giving me an opportunity to review Ashwin Sanghi & James Patterson’s latest offering ‘Private India’. Somehow I get to only do book reviews for Murder mysteries and thriller fictions and this one is no exception either. Although it’s a collaboration of Ashwin Sanghi with James Patterson but I believe he (James) is happy to take a back seat here as it is not mentioned on his personal website about this book. So, I believe, its pretty safe to say it’s a Murder mystery from an Indian writer. I have never read either of the two before and hence have tried to review uninfluenced from their previous work.

My Review:

When two people who are literally master at their art…collaborate, sparks are sure to fly. Honestly this is the best one I have read so far (from an Indian writer). I have read Dan Brown also and to be fair to them it can’t be compared to his work because when people write, I am pretty sure that they keep him as a benchmark when it comes to a Thriller fiction.

The cover of the book takes inspiration from the James Patterson’s ‘Private’ series where some of the most iconic monuments are usually on the cover. This time it’s the Taj Hotel (Mumbai) and the Gateway of India who get a place on the ‘Private’ cover. The color combinations and the sleekness of the cover give a pretty international look’n’feel to the book.

The tagline reads, “It’s the season for murder in Mumbai” and I swear the book literally lives by that. The moment you take a plunge you are encountered with a corpse in the first chapter itself. The case is handed over to India’s finest detective agency – Private India. It is now up to Santosh Wagh, our hero, to nail the killer. The 51-year-old investigative genius is constantly tormented by his painful past where he has to live with the guilt of killing his own family, which he tries to suppress with regular whiskey shots.

The more Santosh’s rides to investigate and make his mind run…the more he hits roadblock after roadblock…murder after murder. The yellow garrote with which every victim is strangulated makes it a no brainer that this is a case of a serial killer but the intentional clues in the form of strange and uncanny objects that the ruthless killer leaves every time with the corpses makes it chilling as well as interesting from the detective’s point of view.

Private’s detective team included Nisha Gandhe – the head-turningly attractive assistant to Wagh with the same pedigree to her investigation as her boss’. Mubeen – the medical examiner, whose specialty itself was ‘Death’. Hari – the tech wizard of Private who was always awesome at his job. The team gets very able support from Jack Morgan, Santosh’s mentor at one time and Rupesh – the inspector in-charge who was once a very close friend of Santosh but time had its own course.

I don’t know whether this would have worked a decade back but today when one would have at least seen an episode of CID on Sony (read CID TV) it becomes very easy for readers to have a mental map of the characters. The characters are finely written and given equal space in the book.

The book hits the top speed when Santosh tries to connect the clues, which the twisted killer leaves at every killing. The way he connects and with what he connects is truly spine chilling. Once again it shows that no matter how much Ashwin tries; he couldn’t resist the temptation of putting a mythological theme to it, which you will surely love.

The reason for which I personally like this witty thriller is the way the serial killings have been used. You would have read serials killings and the killings would have a pattern but rarely and I mean ‘rarely’ do you get serial killings where the victims were related too. Ashwin very nicely tries to portray the troublesome past of the killer and how each and every victim’s death had a meaning to the killer. Before I spill out too much let me cut it short.

The negatives are very few but they surely are there. I know sub-plots make a book interesting but sometimes too many sub-plots can make the reader wander and loose the plot. Although it is a very fast read and you will complete it in max two days but still the sub plots make it tiring.

The book is a delicacy for those who love racy and pacey spine chilling stuff. The moment you feel that you have figured it out all…you are in for another twist like an Abbas-Mustan thriller. All his (Ashwin) books have been based on historical, theological and mythological themes and this one too uses it but very subtly. After Amish Tripathi’s Shiva Trilogy this one has taken Indian writing to newer heights.

It’s a racy, witty and an ‘unputdownable’ Thriller. Make sure you grab a copy of Private India. I am going with 3.5 out of five for the simple reason that it is way too bulky with extra pages…chapters…and subplots. Nonetheless, it is an awesome read. Don’t miss this one from Mr. Sanghi.


This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!


Banquet on the Dead

Book Review:Banquet on the Dead

Book: Banquet on the Dead

Author: Sharath Komarraju

Reviewed By: Manas Mukul

First of all I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Sharath for getting his second novel published within a span of six months. I was fortunate enough that Blogadda selected me to review his first book ‘Murder at Amravati’ but this time it was Sharath’s friendly gesture that he himself asked me to review his second one, ‘Banquet on the Dead’. I would apologize for the slight delay in the review as I was caught up with things. I have read the book thoroughly, infact slower than my usual pace of reading and I will try to be as honest as possible and do justice with the review of this Murder Mystery.

For me personally the cover page doesn’t have much significance this time, as was not the case with ‘Murder at Amravati’. As you flip two pages Sharath has dedicated the book to ‘Lakshmibai’ his father’s maternal grandmother. In the prologue we are introduced to two characters, Nagesh and Ashok, who are labourers employed to do the job on a particular day at the mansion where the whole story revolves. The prologue has their version of what they have heard while they were busy working at or around 1 pm on the day in question.

Just like ‘Murder in Amravati’, ‘Banquet on the Dead’ is also set in a small town, Hanamkonda. The story begins with Valmiki Nagarajan, the inspector in charge of the case, and Dr. Koteshwar Rao engrossed in a discussion where Dr. Koteshwar requests the inspector to have a re-look at the case. The story is all about the death of Kauveramma, whose dead body was recovered from the well which was within the same enclosure of the mansion. Everyone including the inspector believed that she has committed a suicide and was about to close the case. But it was Dr. Koteshwar, grandson of Kauveramma, who kept on persisting that he thinks otherwise. Dr. Koteshwar recommends Hamid Pasha, an unlikely ‘Hero’, to Nagarajan in his pursuit to find the murderer.

Nagarajan with his assistant, Hamid Pasha, sets out on unravelling the truth and to find out who the actual murderer is? All the suspects in the story are relatives of Kauveramma with more or less the same motive – ‘Money’. Many a times in the story there is mention of the huge property that kauveramma possessed and everyone who was living in that manor wanted a piece of it, if not the whole. The stand out thing in the story is although being a part of a joint family, most of the members simply hated others. Ironically as you read on you will get a feel that majority of them actually disliked Kauveramma and in one way or the other they wished her to be no more. The story has a lot of characters (suspects) and I will restrain myself from mentioning them and their relation with the diseased. Everyone had a motive and most of them had the means to commit the crime, it all rests on the duos (Nagarajan and Hamid Pasha) shoulders to unveil the murderer. Do they successfully do it, to find out read the book?

I must praise Sharath here in the way he brings out the most miniscule of details about a particular setting and even if one has not been to that place, he/she can very easily visualize how it all looks. The same is the case with the mansion in which most of the story takes place. There is a very vivid description of the mansion and the details are very well taken care of as one gets sucked into the story as if he/she is actually living the story. The diction is plain and simple and is a fast read. The build up to the climax of the book is good. Every time it keeps you guessing who according to you is the murderer.

This time I noticed more negative than positives, I am sorry Sharath but I am trying to be as honest as possible. The book with its 260 pages is way too long compared to most of the Indian fictions that are in the market these days. It becomes a drag in the middle and you have to be patient enough to reach the end. According to me, one of the major flaws in the story is the number of characters that are dished out. You need to make a mental map of the characters and how each of them is related to Kauveramma. By the time you reach the middle of the book, it becomes very difficult to remember just by the name that how was this character related to her. If one has read ‘Murder at Amravati’ he/she will find striking similarities between both the books, like the way Sharath has dealt with the investigation. Because of the build up, you gear up yourself for a shocking or surprising ending but if you want my take on it; you will be disappointed. Unlike ‘Murder in Amravati’ where it had an awesome twist right at the end, ‘Banquet on the Dead’ won’t serve you that.

This banquet instead of turning out to be a great feast it turns out to be an ordinary supper. One suggestion for Sharath, try some other genre also otherwise it won’t be long before people cast you as a stereotype. If I had to rate this, I would go with two and half out of five for Sharath Komarraju’s ‘Banquet on the Dead’.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

You can also reach to Sharath Komarraju at sharathkomarraju.com


Murder in Amaravati – Book Review

Book Review:

Book: Murder in Amaravati

Author: Sharath Komarraju

Reviewed By: Manas Mukul

I really feel excited and want to thank BlogAdda for giving me an opportunity to review Sharath Komarraju’s – ‘Murder in Amaravati’.I always believe that being a critic is a very tough job.

You write well about a BAD book and the readers would hate you.

You write bad about a BAD book and the author would hate you.

You write bad about a GOOD book and everyone would hate you!!!

Eh!! That seems to be a mind twister… Isn’t it? No worries you are most welcome to read the above three lines again. <Smiles>. Nevertheless, my idea of writing a book review is to be true to myself, to the author and above all to the readers.

The first three things that you notice as soon as you pick up the book are; the cover is nicely done with the picture of ‘Maa Kali’ and ‘a lock with a key’ and the title, ‘Murder in Amaravati’. The writer, Sharath Komarraju, has an IT background and unlike the recent parade of IITians, IIM grads and other IT professionals who have suddenly felt an urge to write and write, but nothing other than their autobiographical kind of love stories. Sharath tries an attempt at a Murder Mystery as his first novel and I guess that was my reason for choosing this book.

The story is plotted in and around Amaravati on the banks of river Krishna. It starts with Krishna Shastri, the priest of the temple discovering the dead body of the ever-so-hated hostess of the village, Padmavati, at the feet of Maa Kali. The news spreads and everyone gathers including the ‘hero’ of the novel, Venkat Reddy, who is a head constable at the police station, situated 15 kms from the village. To begin with, everyone thought that she has a committed suicide and it will be an easy wrap up for the police too but in the doctor’s report it was mentioned that she died because of drowning in ‘fresh water’. Venkat Reddy found it fishy when he compared the post mortem report with the spot at which the dead body was recovered. If she died of drowning, how did her body reach the temple and hence treated death as a murder and took it upon himself to investigate the case. Venkat Reddy constantly reminded himself that he had never even solved a petty crime case, how will he carry out this one but he never lets this thought come in his way all throughout the investigation. Krishna Shastri, the priest provides more than a helping hand to the head constable in solving the murder mystery.

The story moves around seven main characters only; Seetaraamaiah, Satyam, Lakshmi, Shekhar, Vaishnavi, Kishore and Indira with some small characters who make little contribution. Seetaraamaiah is the sarpanch of the village and one of the main suspects in this case as he was in love with Padmavati, the victim, and was about to marry her. Satyam is the postmaster of the village and is one of the prime suspects. Lakshmi is Satyam’s wife. Shekhar is a half paralysed guy (he was paralysed from – under the belly) and has key involvements in the case. Vaishnavi is Shekhar’s wife. Kishore is the son of sarpanch who is always found to take care of his sister, Indira as she is depicted as nearly dead with only her left eye moving in the whole body because of an accident she met. Venkat investigates and with the help of the priest, comes to a conclusion about the murderer after going through all the circumstances and evidence. Seven people with seven motives…Do they have the means and opportunity too??? He finally gets hold of the murderer or does he??? I’ll suggest read the book to know the fantastic end with the breath-taking twist to it.

There are lots of positives in the book at least it seemed to me. The author has made a great attempt with this murder mystery as his first novel. The book has about 200 pages with very common diction which makes it a fast read for someone like me too who doesn’t have a great hold of the language. I simply hate when, while reading you require a dictionary on every other page of the book. Even if ‘Murder in Amaravati’ has such words, Sharath has made it sure that by the feel of the sentence you will know what the word wants to convey. I must congratulate Sharath with the way he has given thought to every minute detail in the book. In the initial chapters you will find how in his own way he has introduced each and every character along with moving the story forward. Otherwise it might have come across as a drag. Everyone who has been to a village ever in his/her lifetime will be to connect to the book and relate to the characters and those who haven’t been to village ever would get an experience of how the village life is. He has also kept basic elements of a murder mystery very nicely intact all throughout as Venkat Reddy, the hero always reminds himself that he is alone in this investigation and he cannot trust on anyone. In fact the author makes sure that the reader gets a chance to think and puts his thinking cap on. The elements like motive, means and opportunity which are an integral part of solving a murder mystery are also taken care of.

Along with many positives there are a few negatives too. Like, if you are looking for a book with a great vocabulary, you might end up getting disappointed. Because of the same reason and the setting in the book and the characters it will not appeal to a great deal to an international audience.

I guess I have written enough. I can play a spoilsport but would like to help Sharath and will ask you to grab a copy of ‘Murder in Amaravati’ and read this good debut effort which has a nice plot along with an awesome ending. It gets a ‘Thumbs Up’ from me and I won’t be surprised if it becomes the next best seller.


This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books! You can also reach to Sharath Komarraju at sharathkomarraju.com