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Title: Seduced By Murder
Author: Saurbh Katyal
Publisher: Blue Jay Books
Price: Rs. 156 on Amazon
When detective Vishal Bajaj receives a call from his old flame Aditi, he is seduced into a vortex of family lies and a murder. Vishal sets out to catch the murderer, while dealing with the resurgence of an irresistible desire for Aditi that he had buried years ago. Vishal is a witty, hard drinking, tough private detective who doesn't mind getting his hands dirty as he races against time to catch a meticulous killer. Seduced by Murder weaves a web of noir and suspense that keeps the reader riveted and guessing till the end.
Vishal was a corporate henchman before he quit it all to be inspired by his maternal uncle and become a private investigator. He is perpetually drunk throughout the book and surprisingly survives only on alcohol and occasionally black coffee, without any food. He is not super intelligent but is believable. Along with his sidekick and assistant Pranay, he has only solved "cheating partners" cases until now. Once fine day his ex Aditi, who is now married to someone else calls him and asks him to investigate the murder of her brother-in-law, Anil Kapoor. Yes, the victim here is called Anil Kapoor. I can so see a Sonam Kapoor cringing somewhere. Anyway, the Kapoors are high profile businessmen and the money offered to Vishal to investigate this case as as luring to him as to be around Aditi again. He takes up the case and with the help of Babu, the local policeman in charge who reminded me constantly of the policeman in the movie 'Barfi!', ends up finding clues after clues to finally solve the mystery.
Vishal is clear from first that it is a member of the family who has killed Anil. Anil's brother Sunil who also happens to be Aditi's husband was seen chasing Anil around with a knife, before he was actually killed. Anil's wife is a suspect too, since she knew that her husband was gay (spoiler alert?) and wanted to spend her life with her lover instead. Leo, Anil's lover is also a suspect as he is trying to leave the country at the earliest since the news of Anil's murder broke out. Mr. Kapoor, Anil's father is also a suspect as he was tired of his loser son and his failed business deals, and also with the fact that he was gay. So almost every character in this book is either a suspect or a detective or a cop. Nothing else in between.
The first thing that I noticed in this book is the Indianess. Vishal's character almost reminded of the desi Karamchand or Byomkesh Bakshi. If that was the intent, then the author has achieved this beautifully. The mystery is intriguing in itself and tense moments are alternated with some witty one liners and some silly ones too. The language used is very layman and Vishal is a person you can clearly imagine in your head, to be wearing a long black coat, black hat and carrying a cigar! His relationship with Pranay starts of well, but is later drowned once the mystery picks pace. The presence of his pet dog Bruno bothered me. In one scene, Pranay is pouring beer into the water bowl of the dog and this is treated pretty naturally by the author and by Vishal. Vishal is clearly the best character in this book. He is a local detective, with no gizmos or hot assistants. He relies purely on evidence and logic and his instincts, that always seem to work for him. He is drunk in almost every scene, even while driving and even when he has a police officer next to him.
The mystery is decent and executed well. I for once, could not predict who the killer was and I was shocked when the truth was revealed. But what bothered me was that the killer and the turn of events was included only in the last few chapters. The killer was not given any importance throughout the book and hardly was seen in the story. The build up on the killer's character could have been better. I could visualize the scene in which Vishal locks his eyes with the killer, and the killer squirms. An exciting tense moment that was, because the author still chose not to reveal the killer at that point of time. The flow of the story and the level of mystery is good. Not great, but good. The biggest disappointment was Aditi. She was Vishal's ex, and the start promised to show her in a different light later on. But sadly, it does not. She just remains a mute spectator throughout the book, with hardly anything to do.
The cover of the book does no justice to the potential story inside. There is no way on earth that I would have picked this book by looking at it. The cover looks like the cover of a bad movie DVD that is sold on the streets. Also, the title has no relevance to the story at all. There sure is murder in the book, but no seduction. At all. The book was originally titled 'No Flying From Fate', but that does not connect to the story either. If the author wanted to show how Vishal's and Aditi's lives gets mixed up while solving this mysery, he sure has not succeeded. Aditi could have been anyone here. Why, there was no need for her at all in the book. The last chapter after the mystery is revealed, is completely out of place.
The book has more pros than cons, but at times I felt that I was watching an episode of CID while reading this. Some of the dialogues are out right stupid. Can you ever imagine a police officer say "I got carried away...." while he missed some important evidence? Some people have found the dialogues and quotes hilarious. Few, very few of them are. And "We are born to die anyway" is not a quote for me.
Verdict: If 'CID', 'Bobby Jasoos' and desi detectives are your type, go for it.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
I received a copy of the book directly from the author. This is not a paid review.