STORY: 4/5 WRITING: 5/5 CHARACTERS: 5/5 ENTERTAINMENT: 5/5
The story as it goes
They say fame and fortune are a deadly combination. But what if it comes accompanied by danger?
Prachand Tripathi, a charismatic and well-known desi detective, is the owner of Kanpur Khufiya Private Limited, and Vidya is his finance manager and better half. While they have come a long way from solving petty cases of lost garments and lost pets to issues that require more expertise and skills, with her qualms about squandered opportunities, the wife still remains unimpressed.
This is exactly when a promising proposition comes their way; one which they find difficult to refuse. When asked to assist and oversee the movie which is being made on their lives, the couple finds themselves in the arid desert landscape of Rajasthan.
They are to stay in a haveli (palace) with Paramveer Khattar, who is making this film, and the family of Rathods who own the palace. As it happens, this haveli is near the ruins of Kuldhara, a village that is rumoured to be haunted. The legends of the place are shrouded in mystery and there are more than enough rumours, and omens about Kuldhara, enough to permanently keep people away from its deadly aura.
When the actress of the movie Ranjana is found dead, hushed voices and shocked expressions all convey the same feeling. Maybe, the cursed, abandoned, and haunted village indeed has something to do with it.
So, is it the cursed village of Kuldhera?
Or is it an entirely different scandal?
Read on to know more about the novel The Curse of Kuldhara and my thoughts on it.
Prachand Tripathi reminds me of Indian crime TV shows like Tehkikaat, CID, and Adaalat. The man is just like us, but with a little extra observation which goes a long way in cementing his name as a clever detective. And yet despite all his brilliance, he is approachable, which secures his image as the detective next door.
Vidya is his business and life partner – firm, unapologetic, and intelligent. They share a funny and sweet bond with each other and I appreciate how Vidya always manages to have an entity of her own besides being the lead character’s wife.
Gupta is the senior inspector handling this case. And here let me ask you a question. What image your mind conjures when you read the name, S.I. Gupta? Of a man, right?
Well, you could not have been more wrong. The Gupta in question here is Maya Gupta, who brings a lot of novelty to the table. Her character, a girl from a conservative rural background, as a police officer is new and portrays a change that is both urgent and important.
In the Tripathi family too, each character has certain traits that they maintain right to the very end. It is difficult to keep the characters and their nature intact as the story progresses but the author does so. People from Indian families will find almost all the characters familiar.
Writing style and opinion
There is no doubt that the premise of The Curse of Kuldhara is interesting. The build-up of the plot takes quite a lot of time and the actual suspense comes after about 100 pages. But even then, I continued because I had an intuition that this was going to be an impressive read for me. The plotline is strong. The investigation, suspicions, and motive for murder are all good.
The writing is in simple English with a flavoursome infusion of vernacular phrases, but their meanings and context are all in the book so that it doesn’t become an issue for the uninitiated.
As I said, there was ample introduction and setting up before we reached the crime scene. That I didn’t read the first book of this series didn’t matter. Because you have more than enough introduction to the KKPL (Kanpur Khufiya Private Limited) world.
The Curse of Kuldhara is undoubtedly long. I read it in 2-3 sittings. Once the suspense gets to your head, you can’t leave it unfinished. I thought I would take more time, but as I progressed, my reading speed only increased.
I have never been to Rajasthan or Uttar Pradesh but reading this, I got a fair idea of the lifestyle of people there. Now you know the reason behind the length of the book.
I have read small-town crime and countryside crime stories earlier too. But this time, it is an Indian village. Everyone knows that Indian villages are laden with technological constraints, customs, and stereotypes, and are lethargic to change. This setting offers a fresh perspective even to those who have previously read small-town crime fiction.
And the drama. Can you ever have a solution to a problem in an Indian family without drama? No. The book is a full-on entertainer from the first word to the last.
In suspense stories, the climax is clearly very important. The climax of this one is a shocker. Talking anything about how it ends would be a spoiler so let me tactfully say, it left with a big question mark on my face.
What I didn’t like
Black cats and owls indicating a bad omen? Well, these poor animals don’t have any control over our lives.
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