WRITING STYLE: 3.5/5
This year too has been quite generous to me when it comes to all things mysterious. That’s because I recently had the opportunity to read Vee Kumari’s Dharma: A Rekha Rao Mystery.
It is a book that blends mystery with mythology in a tantalizing combination.
What to expect?
Expect a book that is essentially a murder mystery. Expect a book that links mystery with mythology, archaeology, and Indian history. Expect a book that is meant for both Indian as well as international readers.
Expect a book that laces its mystery with the right dose of drama and romance. And finally, expect a book that has an Indian American as its central character.
Who can read?
Since the book is written in a simple and breezy language, it can be easily picked up by a beginner level reader.
Let’s talk about the storyline
Rekha Rao, a thirty-something Indian American professor sees her entire world turned upside down after the brutal murder of her father.
When police nab the poor janitor Eduardo Lopez as the perpetrator of the ghastly crime, Rekha knows something is amiss. But what she thinks and believes to be true hardly matters in the eyes of law.
Eduardo is wrongly convicted and Rekha spends precious time trying to undo the wrong.
Rekha finally manages to move on and make a life for herself. But, a few years later, she is again faced with a shocking crime. Another brutal murder that rocks her world and leaves her shattered.
Her mentor Joseph Faust is killed outside his friend’s house. And the murder weapon is an ancient idol of the Hindu Goddess Durga.
Because of her academic expertise, Rekha is called upon to help Detective Al Newton with his investigations.
But as the police start zeroing down on suspects, Rekha has an inkling of déjà vu. She knows that police are following the wrong trail.
But this time she cannot let another innocent be convicted for murder.
She decides to pursue her own ‘dharma’. Using her acute sense of intuition and personal connections, she decides to solve the murder herself.
Upon realizing Rekha’s intentions, Detective Al warns her about the dangerous consequences of her actions. Of interfering with an ongoing investigation and going after the killer all by herself. But Rekha seems determined.
Dharma: A Rekha Rao Mystery sees Rekha balance her intense attraction towards Al, her love and duty towards family, her desire to see Eduardo released and her resolve to find out Professor Faust’s killer.
How good is the writing style?
The writing style is good. The author conceives a remarkable plot and puts together an interesting set of characters to hold it all together.
I especially enjoyed the academic background which dictates the theme of the book. The author writes well but has some scope for improvement. A little more finesse in writing and tying up of loose ends will go a long way.
Enough thought has gone into introducing the concepts of Hinduism and its history to a beginner and I appreciate the thought behind it.
What did I like?
The best part of the book is its cryptic mysteries. Their answers lie in ancient tales and artifacts. Aspects of the murder, when linked with ghosts of the past, make for a fascinating read.
Rekha’s Indianness is evident in her everyday life – her choice of clothes, her preference for chai over coffee, her inclination towards everything spicy, etc.
But her Americanness is asserted in the bold choices that she makes. Her pursuit of personal beliefs (upholding of Dharma even if it means disregarding local laws) is a unique characteristic; a product of her mixed roots.
The book provides some unique insights into the lives of Indian Americans, adding another feather to its cap.
What could have been better?
The book lacks a fast pace which is often expected in thrillers and mysteries. It is slowed down by a repetitive narrative that does not take the story forward.
I strongly believe that trimming down a few of these narrations would have done wonders to the book and its entertainment quotient.
Also, the romance angle doesn’t seem quite right and the chemistry between Al and Rekha needs much work.
What about the characters?
The characters are interesting. They come from different backgrounds and have a different impact on the readers.
Rekha comes across as a strong independent woman, battling her inner demons and her current circumstances. Her character is determined, dynamic and headstrong but not in a superwoman sort of way. Instead, by giving voice to her insecurities she appears much more relatable and believable.
That Rekha succeeds in overcoming her PTSD while looking for a killer is not a mean feat. Other characters also manage to leave a lasting impression on the reader.
Is the climax good enough?
The climax of the book is bittersweet. It is predictable but not entirely so. In fact, I quite appreciate the intricacies of the mystery’s conclusion.
The climax manages to give a befitting end to the story of Rekha’s quest in an absolute nonchalant way. I also like the way the book concludes on an emotional note as opposed to a cold and informal one.
It all boils down to the entertainment quotient
There is no dearth of entertainment in the book. It has some loose ends and intermittent episodes of dullness.
But overall, it manages to narrate a fascinating story of love, betrayal and obsession. It serves as a lesson written in blood; a warning for those who refuse to let go.
In the end
Dharma: A Rekha Rao Mystery is a book that tells us an engaging tale of unchecked obsession, a desire to be heard, a morally binding Dharma, limitless greed and an attraction that only increases with time.
It is a book that promises something to every type of reader.
The Final Verdict – Read it.
Pick the book if
- You enjoy books that combine history, mystery and mythology.
- You are looking for a good murder mystery.
- You like books that have strong female protagonists.
Skip the book if
- You are looking for a fast-paced thriller.
- You are looking for a short read.
Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of Dharma: A Rekha Rao Mystery using the link below.