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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

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1

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!

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Too Late For Atonement – Chapter – 12

The PEN WARRIORS

The PEN WARRIORS

Too Late For Atonement – Chapter – 12

“Read the previous part of the story here – Prologue, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3Chapter 4 , Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7Chapter 8, Chapter 9Chapter 10 and Chapter 11

The evil, which by now was sown in him, was growing in strength day by day. He wanted this madness that was swallowing him blink by blink…thought by thought…to come to a halt…to an end. It was becoming unbearable for him and with all those noises in his head…’that’ evil was on the verge of taking complete control of sense in his sane mind.

Shekhar got up from the sofa with urgency in his steps…pulled out his laptop from the laptop bag…but this time not to write something. He wanted to get on with ‘it’ as soon as possible. For the past three days…the hours he spent trying to find ‘particular’ information, were the only hours he spent on his laptop. His browser was over working with tabs open with every social media platforms that are out there. The whole scene had a frenzy look to it…as if a drug addict is searching for the last sniff. From Facebook to Twitter…from Instagram to Blogs…from Pinterest to Google+…he was hunting everywhere…searching desperately for that one clue. In fact he didn’t even spare Orkut in an attempt to reach him.

Ting tong…it was the doorbell…

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15 minutes back…

She put on her dancing shoes, as today…was Sunday, she didn’t had to go to school. Roohi was unusually happy today…was being her real self after a long time…her heart was smiling which her lips…her face was mirroring. She put on the latest number from a recent super hit. She was not the best dancer and she knew it too…but today…’who cared’. She was doing step after step…move after move without a single worry of anything. The next soundtrack started and she started too with big ‘Yaaaayyyyy’.

Ting tong…it was the doorbell…

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15 minutes back…

To everyone’s surprise and for Roohi’s happiness…Tara decided to stay back at home today. Although it was a Sunday and she knew that the weekends are even more hectic than the usual working weekdays but she had to…had to take a break…for Roohi…and more significantly to get this money issue sorted out asap. She was in a pensive mood glaring at her bank accounts through online banking. ‘I will have to manage this huge amount someway or the other’, she reminded herself.

She checked her every bank accounts even the ones, which weren’t known to Shekhar and tried to hoard the amount in a single place…so that a single transaction would do the needful. A nervous sheen of sweat had formed on her temple by then. She made a quick glance to make sure whether any one was watching her…with what she was up to.

Ting tong…it was the doorbell…

The moment Roohi heard the doorbell…she hip-hopped towards the main entrance still humming the track that was interrupted by the doorbell. She saw her father with his laptop and tried to locate her mom…but she wasn’t visible behind the slightly open door of her room. She opened the main door with ‘Who is there’ cry to complement it. It was their neighbor, Aryan Ahuja. He picked up Roohi in his arms the moment he entered and in his peculiar way planted a kiss on her cheeks with his stubble stabbing Roohi’s soft pink cheeks. Roohi always hated him for doing that. She grunted, ‘Leave me Aryan Uncle…Leave me’. ‘My sweetie’, he said while letting her go. She immediately ran towards her mom’s room. Shekhar’s chain of thoughts, was brought to a stop by Aryan’s greetings. He immediately shut his laptop and greeted back to Aryan with his effervescent phony smile.

Mommy that Aryan uncle is here’, Roohi announced gasping for breath. Roohi made Tara to rattle out of her current wave of thoughts. With certain reasons of her own, Tara never seemed to be comfortable when Aryan was around…today he just added to nervy feel of the air surrounding her. She walked out to the living room and greeted him, with Roohi trying to playfully hide behind her. Moments later, the room suddenly went quite and it was the air conditioning, which turned out the loudest. Glances were exchanged with courteous smiles.

One look at Aryan…you knew he had something up his sleeves and he was not here just for a Sunday brunch. One look at Shekhar…and you knew he looked at Aryan with genuine friendliness and to whom he can always reach out in case of any help. One look at Roohi…and you could very easily make out her disliking to this ‘ever-kissing, stubble rubbing’ uncle. One look at Tara…and you knew she had some other plans with a clear sense of unease with Aryan’s presence…

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“Me and my team are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at BlogAdda.com. #CelebrateBlogging with us.”

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“ Read the next part of the story here – Chapter 13, Chapter 14, Chapter 15, Chapter 16, Chapter 17, Chapter 18 and Chapter 19

14

Too Late For Atonement – Chapter 9

The PEN WARRIORS

The PEN WARRIORS

“Read the previous part of the story here – Prologue, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4 , Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7 and Chapter 8

Note: This Chapter was written by Mr. Anirudh Shetty…he wasn’t available because of some unavoidable circumstances so i am filling in by posting 🙂

Too Late For Atonement – Chapter 9

The room was not very large and it didn’t help with stacks of newspapers piled and scattered everywhere. Dimly lit and windows bolted, the room was shut and had a distinct pesticide like smell. He sat at the center with newspapers stacked all around him. His eyes looked around the room, before it settled on a particular stack which seemed fresh.

He checked the date.
18 September, 2012.

He pulled the stack towards him and kept them on his lap. His eyes were now frantically scanning the paper, searching for something.

Indian Newshouse

He took it from the pile and read a few headlines of each page. On reaching the last page, he kept the sheet back.

Indian Daily

He pulled it by its ends and started reading at a faster pace. Few headlines, rest of it was small news articles squeezed between advertisements. He placed it back on the same pile again.

Times in India

He crumpled the papers now as he lifted the newspaper. His mind couldn’t register any words anymore and he was now searching for pictures. Many photos of accidents went by. He turned the pages but none seemed to fit his required criteria. He threw it carelessly.

Deccan Havoc

He tried lifting the next sheet by its edge, but he dropped it midway. Agitated, he threw the rest of the newspapers which were on his lap and he had reached his saturation a little too early today.
He extended his feet and kicked away the stacks in front of him. He fell back, keeping his arm below his head and stared at the ceiling.
He couldn’t read or search anymore.

Gathering 20-25 different newspapers from the newspaper stands spread across the city, and scanning them page by page for the expected news had become his everyday routine. Every morning for ten days now, he started this task with an excitement and ended it with disappointment.

The expected Headline was not there!! Oh how sure he was that night. After what he had seen, there were no doubts.

He closed his eyes and the scenes replayed in his vision.

The screeching of the tyres, BMW toppling and doing somersaults, the look on the driver’s face. At last the silence inside him with chaos and crowd around.

Business Tycoon found dead, drunk driving mishap
A Perfect Cover Story, yet missing in those worthless pieces of scrap called newspapers.

He was agitated, it was not that he wanted a show but he was looking for a proof.
He knew that there was no evidence, but he was searching for a testimony in those newspapers.- a confirmation!

Else what would I tell her?

His face twitched and he furiously scratched his chin. Did he survive? Did I bail out too early? I should have stayed to confirm maybe.

It didn’t seem logical that the news-hungry journalists could miss to cover the story of The Joseph Kurien’s accident. He would always be in the Business news section, It was now his time to find space in casualties, or at least an obituary.

He may not deserve veneration of an obituary, but in this fast-paced world which always goes behind money, it was not about what you deserve. Rather, it was all about what you could buy.

Interrupting his thoughts, he heard someone banging at his door.

Though startled, he remained quiet. He crawled into the bathroom, opening the door slightly and made way inside. He hid there.. till the visitors at the door were tired of banging.

Even after they were gone, he didn’t come out..

 

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“Me and my team are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at BlogAdda.com. #CelebrateBlogging with us.”

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“ Read the next part of the story here – Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13, Chapter 14Chapter 15, Chapter 16, Chapter 17, Chapter 18 and Chapter 19

18

Too Late For Atonement – Chapter 4

TPW Logo

“Read the previous part of the story here – Prologue, Chapter 1, Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 “

Too Late For Atonement – Chapter 4

He was going insane…typing drafts after drafts but with no success. ‘This article has to come up this week otherwise I will lose this job too’, Shekhar thought, frantically typing at his keyboard. The thought of not being able to succeed at anything was now engulfing him day by day. He felt exasperated…never imagined that a day would come when he would be losing his ‘Midas’ touch to the only thing, he considered, he was good at…writing. Realising he was not going anywhere with the current one…he simply banged the laptop screen shut.

In a desperate need for a break…he took a shower…but the thoughts were not yet ready to spare him.

Seeing his reflection in the mirror, he notices what this Mumbai lifestyle…all this stress…all these EMIs…have given him – a receding hairline and more importantly what they have taken away – the genuineness from his smile. The smile never left him…but the sparkle and the truthfulness was now being replaced by the plastic and phony smile.

He put on a casual T-shirt, imprinted with ‘why so serious’ in blood and a joker in the background, along with his regular track pants. He picks up his specs…pours himself some coffee and walks over to the balcony of his high-rise overlooking the Powai Lake.

‘What has happened to me and above all who has done this to me’, his mind still lingered. The only rejoinder that came back to him every time he put this query to his literary mind was…’I myself’

His inability to make peace with his past…or their past…was now getting the better of him. ‘Did I make the right decision by quitting my job?’ he introspected. ‘Will this writing, no matter how good I may be with it, ever gonna take me anywhere’, he continued. ‘Some days I feel as if I am less of a writer and more of a home stay dad’, remembering the laughter of his friends from a friends’ birthday party. Those snide remarks…those passing comments behind his back was beginning to become painful for him…but still he kept that smile going.

In search of the wall clock…his eyes met their huge wedding portrait, which decorated their living room. He remembered how happy he was when he proposed to Tara. She was still pregnant with someone else’s child but he thought that his love was more than enough to overcome that feeling and sail through this lifetime.

‘Was it this that was taking his peace and sleep away’, a troubling thought queried him. ‘Or was it the fear of his wife again going infidel’, keeping him awake at nights. Or was it simply that he could never come to terms with his wife being ever so efficacious…climbing the ladder of accomplishments day by day…while he was on the same ladder…just was climbing in the reverse order. The ambience of such feelings and reflections…was embarking to distraught him…minute by minute…sec by sec.

Remembers what his mentor told him once…that creativity is at its peak…when someone is loneliest in his life. Initially, when Tara was not around he devoted more hours to his writing…the more Tara drifted away…the better he got at his craft, which was certainly giving a boost to his freelancing career. But today there was no success to be seen around…just unfinished documents and drafts and a lot of frustration looming over in the atmosphere.

Next to their portrait was a huge frame of a smiling and a chirpy face…their daughter…or Tara’s daughter. Finally a soothing thought. Roohi gave him that indispensable comfort. Shekhar walks over to her room. She was taking an afternoon nap after school. He walks over to her bed, sits just next to her taking all the precautions not to wake her up. He leant forward and kissed her hand before moving to her forehead and removing that naughty strand of hair, which was making her uncomfortable.

No matter how much he tried to lessen the effect of his past…their past…he was reminded of it whenever he looked at Roohi. On many occasions he found himself simply gawping at her and trying to find any feature, which resembled him…in his desperation. Even if she is not from my seed…what is this angel’s fault? Or is it…

He sensed a cocktail of rage; frustration, infidelity and failure rise within him. Those tender and caring eyes were now shadowing a tinge of evil in them. He felt that it is his past…or her past…that is making him uneasy and realised that he had to do something before this whale of distress and antagonism swallows him completely…

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“Me and my team are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at BlogAdda.com. #CelebrateBlogging with us.”

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“ Read the next part of the story here – Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9 Chapter 10Chapter 11Chapter 12, Chapter 13, Chapter 14, Chapter 15, Chapter 16, Chapter 17, Chapter 18 and Chapter 19 

 

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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!

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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