PLOT: 4/5 CHARACTERS: 3/5 WRITING STYLE: 2.5/5 CLIMAX: 3.5/5 ENTERTAINMENT: 3/5
“’We do not carry tourists to the eastern dock after sunset, so the ferry and boats that are open for the public run only until sunset. It is not an auspicious place for outsiders after sunset.’ There was a clear sign of warning in the fisherman’s throaty voice.”– K Hari Kumar, That Frequent Visitor
I was browsing the Kindle Unlimited section on my Kindle device when I came across this interesting looking book titled That Frequent Visitor. Having read India’s Most Haunted Places, a book written by the same author, I soon decided to download the book and sat down reading. I was looking for a spooky thriller but what I came across is not what I had expected initially. Read on to know more about the book and about my experience of reading it.
What to expect?
Expect a book that has an interesting storyline. Expect a book that isn’t your conventional horror fiction in terms of the ‘spooky’ quotient. Expect a book that tells a story spanning multiple decades, generations and places. Finally, expect a book that is written in an easy breezy style and would be an ideal read for a beginner.
Who can read?
Since the book is written in an easy language it can be easily read by beginners. There are some rich words used every now and then but they would only add to the vocabulary of the reader without complicating the narrative or making the reading experience difficult.
Let’s talk about the storyline
Vypeen is a remote island off the coast of Kochin in Southern India. Its beautiful landscape is blotted by a sinister looking mansion that is said to be haunted by That Frequent Visitor. Outsiders especially women are not allowed on the Island after sunset for it is said that something hauntingly scary awaits their fate if they do so.
It was in year 1948 that the Englishman Richard Baxter and his wife decided to ignore the warnings and rented the mansion for a few days. They disappeared on the third night of Pournami and were never to be found.
Six decades later, the young Shiuli Dutta arrives in Kochin along with her father and aunt and is somehow lured into the dreaded mansion. What she encounters there will unfurl a series of events that will help solve the decades old mystery of the haunted mansion.
How good are the characters?
The characters are an interesting bunch. I love how diverse and distinct each character of the story is. It is true that they sometimes behave irrationally and some character transformations aren’t as smooth as I would have wanted them to be but nevertheless all the characters are well conceived and executed.
Their local identity dictates their personality be it the rustic villager from Kerala or the suave Bengali journalist from Delhi, be it the blue blood royal from Trupunithura or the English gentleman from the colonial India.
What did I like?
I love how the plot is so complex and yet cohesive. I love the use of local elements in the narrative. Things like architecture, language, culture, dressing, food etc give a rich idea of the place and people and helps the reader form vivid visuals.
What did I not like?
Initially, I enjoyed the ingenious way in which the author promoted his own books in the story. The character of Shiuli is a K Hari Kumar fan and reads all his books. But this got a little tiresome after a while when it became too repetitive. Sentences like these quickly became forced and nagging.
“The story became so sensational that K. Hari Kumar, a Gurgaon based writer, actually weaved a whole novel around it. The book was titled, When Strangers Meet, she recalled.”
“‘I am sure that you read it in one of those novels by K Hari Kumar!’”
“She breathed in deep before making the revelation, ‘By the way your daughter is a reading a lot of K Hari Kumar lately!”
What could have been better?
There is no denying the brilliance of the plot. The sheer size and scale of it including the many subplots and a huge set of characters might spell disaster for an average writer but not for Hari Kumar. The author makes good use of all these elements to spin a story that keeps the reader hooked right till the end.
However, one thing that fails to match the plot’s brilliance is the writing. The writing lacks finesse and skill and can be best termed as amateurish. There are abrupt endings and beginnings, hasty closures, irrational character transformations, generous use of poorly thought analogies that together pull the book down.
Is the climax good?
The climax is good. It is well conceived and executed and brings a decent closure to the story of all major characters. Though it isn’t as spooky as I would have liked it to be, it nevertheless gives a befitting end to the story of That Frequent Visitor.
It all boils down to the entertainment quotient
The book does not lack in entertainment. Even though the horror it promises to deliver comes only in bits and pieces and in the end, isn’t that great, the book manages to keep the reader interested in the mystery right till the end.
In the end
In the end, That Frequent Visitor is a book that tells us a fascinating story of greed and lust combined with elements of mystery, thrill and a mild dose of horror. The intriguing mystery that surrounds the old haunted mansion on the Vypeen Island unravels itself gradually sucking the reader in its mysterious depths. It is a kind of story that stays with you long after you are done reading the book.
The final verdict
Read for the story and not for the horror.
Pick it up
- If you are looking for a colonial age mystery that has a subtle dose of horror.
- If you are looking for an interesting story.
- If you like discovering new Indian authors.
- If you are looking for a mild horror thriller.
- If you are looking for a really spooky bone-chilling horror fiction.
- If you don’t like amateurish writing.
- If you are looking for a five-star entertainer.
- If you don’t like editing mistakes in a book (please note that I read the Kindle version).
Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of That Frequent Visitor using the link below.