PLOT: 4/5 CHARACTERS: 4.5/5 WRITING STYLE: 4/5 CLIMAX: 4.5/5 ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 4/5
Having previously read Smita Bhattacharya’s Dead to Them, I knew I was in for an exciting ride ahead when I decided to pick up Kiss of Salt. While the blurb looked promising, I wasn’t very sure about the cover – after all, it doesn’t do much to ignite the reader’s curiosity.
Nevertheless, I decided to give the book a go and am glad that I did because the book is definitely worth it. Read on to know more about my thoughts on the book and about my experience of reading it.
What to expect?
Expect a book that is essentially a mystery cum thriller. Expect a book that has a strong female protagonist. Expect a book that isn’t as racy as conventional thrillers are supposed to be.
Expect a book that imbibes the spirit of Goa and brings to life the non-touristy side of it. Finally, expect a book that though slow at times, doesn’t lack in entertainment.
Who can read?
Since the book is written in a simple language, it can be easily picked up by a beginner level reader.
Something about the storyline
Situated in a beautiful and quaint corner of South Goa, lies the Heliconia Lane. Set in a picturesque location right by the sea, the residents of Heliconia Lane often used to boast about its security and mesmerizing beauty. But all that changed when twenty years ago, the newly married Farideh disappeared and was never to be found.
Now, twenty years later Darya arrives at Heliconia Lane to wrap up her Uncle Paritosh’s worldly affairs and also to find some quiet and solitude. In the last one year, three residents of Heliconia Lane have died under mysterious circumstances and nobody has a clue. Now, Darya isn’t here to investigate but nonetheless is sucked into it when weird things start happening to her.
A masked man found spying, cryptic phone calls, missing objects and documents, and, suspicious behavior of her neighbors are just some of the things that Darya comes across in her first few days at the lane. So, what is happening? Is there a killer in town? Why is everyone in the lane ending up dead? And is all this somehow connected to the disappearance of Darya’s Aunt Farideh twenty years ago?
How good are the characters?
In my opinion, the characters are what makes the book such a winner. Every single character has something going on (secrets, scheming, planning etc) that make them suspects. The fact that every single one of them is secretive and discreet adds to the intrigue surrounding them.
Coming from different backgrounds, different age groups and different motives – when brought together they make for an interesting combination.
Let’s talk about the writing style
Smita’s writing is effortless. She first weaves the enticing mystery layer by layer, only to connect it with things that add to its allure. The linking of the old with the new brings an unbeatable thrill to the reader. I also like how Smita’s characters are so unconventional.
In her protagonist Darya, she creates a woman who isn’t your regular detective material, and who has insecurities of her own; who isn’t sure about her own path in life and yet who manages to show unfaltering determination when circumstances demand so.
What did I like?
The book is set in Goa and just like Goa this book too has a very laid-back vibe – what people who are familiar with the Goan lingo may know as Susegado. The book imbibes the word Susegad and brings to life every single memory that a reader might have about the place. Smita’s writing definitely makes Goa come alive for the reader. Parts of the story also take us to other places but it is Goa that manages to linger on long after one is done reading the book.
What did I not like?
There are two things that seemed a little off about the book. First, Kiss of Salt lacks a uniform pace. It starts on a wild and interesting note, gaining pace quickly but somehow loses track of the central story.
Some of the subplots are given too much attention and they do nothing to increase the pace. The pace quickens again towards the end but I would have loved it if the book was a tad racier.
The second disappointing thing about the book is its cover. Instead of a thriller, it looks like the cover of a laid-back romance. To my great displeasure, it does nothing to excite the reader.
Is the climax good enough?
The climax is where things spice up. They become racier and much more interesting. The climax is like this mega event where all the stories and characters come together. One good thing about Kiss of Salt is that almost everyone has secrets; something or the other to hide and almost everyone is a suspect.
Right till the very end, the reader has no inkling of what the conclusion would sound like. So, yes, the climax is indeed unpredictable and well-executed.
It all boils down to the entertainment quotient
The book does not lack in entertainment. What it might lack in pace is more than compensated by a tight plot and some very mysterious characters. The revival of an old unsolved mystery in the aftermath of three suspicious deaths is a mind-boggling phenomenon; one that manages to hold the reader captive right till the end.
In the end
In the end, Kiss of Salt is a book that has a little bit of everything and in just the right mix to keep the reader hooked. An ideal setting, an old mystery, some new twists and the promise of a suspense laced journey makes this book a winner.
The final verdict
Go for it!
Pick it up
- If you enjoy books that are set in Goa.
- If you enjoy mysteries and thrillers.
- If you enjoy books that take their own sweet time to reveal their mysteries.
- If you are looking for a decent entertainer.
- If you like books with a female protagonist.
- If thrillers and mysteries don’t excite you.
- If you don’t like your mysteries served slow.
- If you are looking for an action-packed entertainer.
Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of Kiss of Salt using the link below.