PLOT: 5/5 CHARACTERS: 5/5 CLIMAX: 5/5 WRITING STYLE: 4.5/5 ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 5/5
“Bad deeds don’t go unpunished. Forbidden love extracts a price.”
If an exquisite book cover and a gripping plotline are not reason enough to pick up this debut book, then The Hawa Mahal Murders also boasts of an attractive writing style that picks pace as the story unfolds. The title of the book is indicative of the genre and the plot that revolves around mysterious multiple murders.
Set in an elite suburban area of Mumbai, the book is a mystery thriller that captures the lives of socialites, businessmen, landowners, and celebrities. There is a lot of loss in the novel which adds to the grim atmosphere of the book.
Hawa Mahal is the name of an old building in Mumbai which is not just named after the real Hawa Mahal of Jaipur but is an imitation of it, no matter how vague and wretched. The architecture of the structure has an uncanny resemblance to the original Hawa Mahal, which is also etched on the cover of the book, while a silhouette of a man in black is seen across it. Blood is splattered across the building, which hints at the location of the murder, while the back cover takes this aspect of the front cover, and elaborates it so that the windows of the Hawa Mahal are reflected in a pool of blood, while the murderer looms around in the darkness of the night.
All of it sets the mood, the eerie atmosphere, and the entertaining aspect of the plot. The plot is rich in suspense, full of gory turns that reflect the twisted mentalities of some people who are leaving the society, at large, unsettled. They destroy the peaceful existence of the community at large. Here, the community refers to all the inhabitants of Mumbai city as a series of what seems like never-ending murders. Though this directly affects the elite, but it gets the police force, and the politicians involved, thus instilling fear in the hearts of the common people.
The Hawa Mahal in the book is said to be built by a rich jeweler as a tribute to his lover. It is not a haunted or a cursed building, but there is no proof that it isn’t either, which hints at the murkiness of the place and why it remains desolate. The serial killer hides while he emerges every time when he has to kill a target. The blackmailer utilizes the events to his advantage. These are the most intriguing characters, for they exist in a sort of paradoxical state where they are very much a part of the main plot while also remaining in the backdrop only to emerge when they are a part of a scene.
Characterization is a very important aspect of this novel. The inner workings of the mind of characters are revealed from time to time. Though not as dense as a stream of consciousness novel, the mentalities help to draw the characters, chart their possible moves and think of their next decisions. This not only broadens the plot and assists in making things more dramatic but also gets the readers engaged in building, guessing, and understanding the nuances of the plot.
The eye for detail is impeccable. Be it in the plot, the book cover, the characterization, or the writing style, every inch of the novel is detailed meticulously, showing the due care that has gone into its construction.
At the core, the plot revolves around a housewife Smita who feels trapped in her unhappy marriage to her husband Karan, who has a mysterious past that Smita discovers and feels rattled by. Another important character is Jai, an honest police officer who is a little desperate to prove his mettle though he feels tangled in the meshes of cruel seniors and the corruption in the system. The plot picks pace when a series of murders take place in a posh area of Mumbai. While Jai sees this as an opportunity to prove himself, he cannot believe his eyes at how his colleagues frame an innocent man for the murders while trying to hide the prime suspect who happens to be the Chief Minister’s son.
When crime, politics, and common people combine, then it makes for a delectable though spine-chilling read but one that is relatable, especially for city dwellers. The book has a few Hindi terms thrown in here and there, but none that may be too difficult to understand for the average reader.
At 286 pages, The Hawa Mahal Murders is moderately lengthy though the fast pace and the short division of chapters compensate for its length. The pace tends to slow down a bit towards the end but is negligible, keeping in mind the suspenseful commotion that is upheld till the last bit of the novel, which ends on a positive note. There is the sense that karma finally has its own way of working, but it eventually works, and things do come to an end for the better.
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