Deal of Death by Sonia Chatterjee: Book Review

Title: Deal of Death

Author: Sonia Chatterjee

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime, Detective

Deal of Death is an exciting mystery with a an intricate plot and an unconventional detective solving this whodunit.

Review

Raya Ray resigns from her hi flying marketing job when she encounters a personal tragedy. Moving cities and changing occupations, she starts her own detective agency. Battling the ennui of mundane cases of cheating spouses and missing pets, she decides to step out of Kolkata to help her housemaid’s sister who lives in faraway Munshiganj.

For Raya, it starts as a case to trace a missing newborn from a hospital but leads to being a labyrinth of lies and deceit that goes back generations. Evil thrives in this seemingly simple town and by the time Raya is close to solving the case, she discovers that things are not as they seem and people are not who they pretend to be.

What works well

This is exciting detective fiction, fast paced and well plotted with a refreshingly different setting and a well etched out protagonist.

Raya Ray, the corporate hi flier turned detective, battling her grief, concerned with body issues, helpful, trusting, deducing, relying on observation and instinct, is the well sketched protagonist that gets the reader attention and loyalty.

The setting is the quaint Munshiganj on the banks of the river Annapurna and a twin ghat of Diwanganj. It looks like a peaceful, sleepy town but there is plenty of royal intrigue woven into the town’s history. There is also the curious temple and the mosque flanking the sides of the Nawab’s tomb. The photos included in the book bring alive the place for the reader.

The plot is intricate. Like any mystery, there is a crime and there are unexpected perpetrators, yet the backstory and how events came to pass is novel.

This is an impressive debut book and the author, Sonia Chatterjee finished writing it in a record six days.

On the other hand

The protagonist is well etched out but sometimes she is plain lucky. She gets a lot of information too easily and too fast. Also, Raya seems to know too many things without a real knowledge of the events themselves.

The plot is well built but the execution seems rushed. Towards the end there is a lot of information, which also keeps shifting because of the different povs.

There are too many characters towards the end of the book. It would help if these characters are introduced early on.

Some things need to be figured out clearly in the plot. The events and incidents are sometimes not believable.

A few characters are sketchy. Adding physical characteristics would help a little bit of context and relatability.

Chapter length does not seen uniform, which is a little jarring. Some chapters are very short, just a few paragraphs and they seem hurriedly done just to give information to the reader. The formatting needs to be looked into. Some chapters don’t even start from a different page. The chapter names too seem a little random. There are days 1-4 and then we move on to day 8.

Some scenes would flow better if there is more of description and ‘showing’ the reader rather than ‘telling’.

Also, giving meanings of words, like jhalmuri, tonga in brackets affects the flow of the story. It would help if they are put as footnotes.

About the Author

An ex-banker and a self- confessed bibliophile, Sonia inherited her love of the written word from her Professor father. As a tribute to her late mother and a gift to her son on his second birthday, Sonia started blogging from September 2017. Married to a Doctor, Sonia is crazy about four things in life – books, food, travel and her uber-cute toddler. She currently works hard to realize her dream of becoming a best-selling author while secretly wishing harder for twelve hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Her work can be found at soniasmusings.com. She blogs about food, travel, movies, parenting, personal journeys and social issues.

Verdict

A fast paced detective story with an endearing MC and an intriguing setting. This debut book hits the right notes in the crime fiction.

Download the book here.

Eighty Hours To Save Karen by Sitharaam Jayakumar: Book Review

Title: Eighty Hours to Save Karen

Author: Sitharaam Jayakumar

Genre: Crime fiction, Thriller

Eighty Hours to Save Karen is a racy, engaging thriller that keeps the reader hooked and spooked till the last page.

Review

Retired Air Commodore, Matthew Williams lives in a remote hill village with his only surviving family member, his little granddaughter, Karen. When Karen is struck by a mysterious ailment under very suspicious circumstances, Matthew takes it upon himself to get to the root of her problem. It seems that there are forces beyond the natural that have a hand in unfortunate incidents; not only Karen’s illness but also a doctor’s death.

What works well

The title of the story sets the tone of urgency for the reader. The cover art is very apt for the book.

The characters are very well etched and are brought to life by an extensive backstory and an impressive attention to detail. The protagonist, the mature war veteran-turned-detective to save his granddaughter is very convincing.

The plotline is very credible and the setting of the little village is created well.

There is a good balance between the backstory and the action in the present so that the pacing stays fast. The tight narration ensures that the reader can finish the book in a single sitting.

The spook factor is high; there are plenty of thrilling moments sprinkled in the book. There are blood covered mysterious objects, cats tapping on windows in the middle of the night, unexplained accidents and many more. Yet, there is no morbid blood and gore.

On the other hand…

I kept waiting to understand the relevance of the no. of hours mentioned in the title to the book. It was only when the book was over that I realised that it probably refered to the entire timeline of the book.

I also could not get a clear picture of Karen from the book. It would have been good if her age and appearance had been mentioned so that she could be brought ‘alive’ in the reader’s mind.

I really enjoyed the traveling of the MC from the village to the state capital Shimla and then to Mumbai. But it rankled that a remote village in Himachal had shopkeepers selling ice, where it is probably cold the year round. Also, a retired Inspector living in a villa in Mumbai sounded far fetched.

The story moved very well but somehow I felt that Matthew held the cards too close to his chest. The case was cracked through his research on the internet. I wished the part about scientific research and cult leaders was expanded further for the story to have more nuances.

About the Author

Sitharaam Jayakumar is an Information Technology professional. He is a passionate reader of books on both fiction and non-fiction. He takes a keen interest in sports, especially cricket and tennis. In addition, he is also interested in politics and music. He loves to write about anything that catches his fancy in everyday life. His repertoire includes articles on social issues, crime, women’s empowerment, fiction and several other topics. He is a
published poet.

Verdict

Pick this fast paced crime thriller that turns spooky and psychological in turns. Very entertaining.

Download the book here.