PLOT: 4/5

My musings

I’ve read a decent number of detective fiction this year. From Chetan Bhagat’s 400 Days to Dr. Sohil Makwana’s Murdrum to Soumon Chatterjee’s The Calcutta Conundrum, and Vijay Medtia’s The Lost Women of Santacruz, I’ve enjoyed most of the books that came my way this year. 

Imagine my delight when I chanced upon yet another Indian detective fiction. This one, set in the Calcutta of the 1970s.

Read on to know more about my thoughts on Sumit Ghosal’s The Dead Don’t Talk, a book that gave me an easy and effortless escape from reality.

What to expect?

Expect an old-school crime novel cum detective fiction. Expect a book that would remind you of Sherlock Holmes and his many adventures. Expect a book that carries a period family drama vibe. Finally, expect a book that is easy to read.

Who can read?

The book makes use of simple language and avoids the use of complicated words and complex sentences. Hence, it can be easily picked up by all types of readers including beginners.

The characters

Private Investigator Rudradeep Ray and his friend and associate Sujit form the main characters of the book. These two would immediately remind you of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. I mean, the striking similarities are definitely hard to miss. That being said, there comes another character, Kakoli, who plays a small albeit interesting role in the lives of our main leads.

Since the crime takes place in the spatial bungalow of the Gangulys, they form the other characters in the book. Diverse and dynamic, together they make for an interesting bunch.

The story as it goes

The Gangulys is a well-to-do business family residing in a palatial Calcutta bungalow where three generations live under a single roof. But all is not well in the Ganguly household, and this becomes clearly evident when one of their senior aunts is found murdered inside a locked room.

While the police try to make a hasty arrest, Private Investigator Rudradeep Ray is approached to solve the case and uncover the truths which the police might have missed.

But just as Ray tries to unravel the ugly realities of the Ganguly family, there happens a second murder, which only adds to the complexity of the case.

Will the Gangulys get justice?

Will there be a third murder?

Will Rudradeep Ray solve the complicated puzzle?

About the writing

The story is one of those classic ‘locked door mysteries’ where the crime occurs within the confines of a locked room. Such murders always make for a tantalizing read. This is compounded by suspicious characters, who all seem to be hiding something (while oscillating between the varying shades of grey).

What also needs to be appreciated is the subtle nuances in the mystery. While the reader in me was as clueless as Sujit, even though privy to all the conversations and interviews with the Ganguly family members, Rudradeep with his sheer powers of deduction and unmatched acumen, unravels the mystery easily. 

What I loved?

An aspect that is often neglected but is one of the most important pillars in a mystery is the ease of reading. Make the narration too simple, and the mystery loses sheen. Make it too complex and it turns a regular reader off. Doesn’t matter how unique the angle is, if it isn’t written in an uncomplicated manner, it doesn’t feel right. And that’s exactly what I loved in The Dead Don’t Talk. It’s an easy, effortless, and smooth read.

What could have been better?

I love historical fiction and period dramas. Hence, one major selling point of the book for me is its setting in the Calcutta of the 1970s. This was a period of turbulent and troubled times given the Naxal movement that was gaining momentum in the state. I had hoped to see more of this incorporated into the story. However, that wasn’t the case. I really wanted the book to have more flavor given its geographical, historical, cultural, and socio-political background.

What I didn’t like?

Despite having nailed nearly all aspects of good old-school crime fiction, what the book lacked was intensity and passion. While the reading itself was effortless, the pull from the story wasn’t that strong. I am talking of that urge to keep turning pages after pages after pages till you get to the end. Those ‘edge of the seat’ thriller vibes just weren’t there.

The final verdict

Go for it!

In the end

In the end, The Dead Don’t Talk is a period crime fiction with a very Indianized Sherlock Holmes vibe. Set in the 1970s Calcutta, and written as a classic locked-room mystery, the book makes for a smooth and entertaining read.

Pick the book if

  • You are looking for a decent entertainer that can be done in a single sitting or two.
  • You are looking for old-school detective fiction.
  • You enjoy period crime fiction set in the pre-internet era before the advent of modern technology.
  • The idea of an Indian Sherlock Holmes appeals to you.

Skip the book if

  • If you don’t like detective fiction.
  • You are looking for a fast-paced thriller.

Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of The Dead Don’t Talk using the link below.