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