PLOT: 3.5/5 CHARACTERS: 4/5 WRITING STYLE: 3.5/5 CLIMAX: 3.5/5 ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 3.8/5
After a long time, I had the opportunity to read a traditional detective story; a detective story written in a good old-fashioned way. And must I say, there is something about those good old-styled mysteries that immediately draws the reader in.
So, when I got the opportunity to read Vijay Medtia’s The Lost Woman of Santacruz, I didn’t know what to expect. I fondly recall my memories of reading Salil Desai’s 3 and a Half Murders and The Murder of Sonia Raikkonen. Another similar book that we have featured on bookGeeks is Compass Box Killer by Piyush Jha.
In the case of The Lost Woman of Santacruz though, the author was new to me, and I hadn’t read any detective fiction in a long time. Therefore, I was clueless with regard to setting my expectations. Read on to know more about the book and about my experience of reading it.
What to expect?
Expect a crime fiction that has a murder mystery at its very core. Expect a mystery that reveals itself in layers. Expect a book that is set in the pre-internet era of the late 1990s, when technology penetration was minuscule and murder mysteries were solved with the sheer power of experience, intelligence, and grit. Expect a crime fiction murder investigation that also relies heavily on drama. If I have to give you a point of comparison, I would say The Lost Woman of Santacruz is a little like the web series The Family Man. Not in story, but in spirit. Both have their decent share of family drama and both have male officers (Ajay Shaktawat and Srikant Tiwari respectively) as the main characters.
Who can read?
The book is written in a language that is simple and easy flowing. Hence, it can be easily picked up by beginner-level readers. Though regular readers would also enjoy it equally.
The story as it goes
It is the year 1998. Mid-July. Bombay is at its humid best. And as always, Inspector Shaktawat’s life is in a mess. Four months ago, Shaktawat’s wife left along with their two children, and ever since then, Shaktawat is barely managing to keep his sanity in check.
But that fateful morning of July, his non-existent married life is the least of his worries. There has been a gruesome murder. A retired Deputy Police Commissioner along with one of his acquaintances has been brutally tortured and then killed. But before the police can get their hands on some solid clues, there happens another murder. With two intermittent and unsolved murders in place, the Mumbai police’s reputation is at stake.
A brutal and fearless cop killer is at play and the police have no idea whatsoever. As the public panic increases, there is an escalating amount of pressure from those at the top and those in political circles to solve the seemingly unsolvable mystery. But the enigma only intensifies when a connection to a decades-old case and some missing gold is discovered.
With no answers in sight, Inspector Shaktawat is putting all his energies into solving the crime, but it seems that bad luck is wreaking havoc in both his personal and professional life.
Who is the cop killer?
Why is he brutally torturing his victims?
How is the case linked to the missing Dubai gold?
Who is the lost woman of Santa Cruz?
How good are the characters?
As is understood from the blurb, Inspector Ajay Shaktawat is the central character. He is the super cop who is smart, intelligent, patient, and experienced. He knows how to crack a difficult case, but despite his record and reputation, he is as humble as ever.
As we read about his many insecurities and dilemmas, one cannot help but develop a soft corner for him. He knows he has not been a good husband or father, but he also knows that in his line of work, one can rarely be an ideal family man.
The other characters are also crafted quite well, their introductions, backstories, flaws, and strengths are all conceptualized in vivid details. Even the most insignificant of characters are crafted with careful thought.
Let’s talk about the writing style
When it comes to writing, the book maintains a steady pace. Yes, it is not as fast as some other thrillers.
But then, that’s what a cop drama really is. It is meant to revolve around a central character with the readers getting an idea of both his personal and professional life.
The mystery is layered and revealed to you in bits and pieces. The more it is revealed, the more complex it gets. And that observation is solely meant as a compliment.
What did I like?
I love how the mystery has a connection with a crime of the past. I also admire the way Mumbai in all its glory and gloominess is captured to the nines. The author gets the late 1990s Mumbai backdrop just right, neither too much to overpower the mystery, and nor too less to be irrelevant.
What could have been better?
Either the pace could have been marginally improved or the book could have been cut short by 20-40 pages.
How good is the climax?
The climax works very well with the rest of the book. It is unpredictable and worth all the hype that is created in the earlier chapters. It does give a befitting end to the story.
It all boils down to the entertainment value
There is a generous dose of entertainment served throughout the book. It is a perfect masala thriller.
In the end
In the end, The Lost Woman of Santacruz is an entertaining read; one that is served with just the right mix of drama and thrill. A cop killer on loose, a two-decades-old case connected to the present, and hundreds of kilograms of missing smuggled gold – how these three different plotlines are intertwined to bring loads and loads of action, adventure, and drama is what makes this book such a hit.
The final verdict
Go for it!
Pick the book if
- You love old-fashioned cop dramas.
- You love reading crime fiction.
- You enjoy murder mysteries.
- The idea of a murder mystery set in Mumbai appeals to you.
Skip the book if
- You don’t enjoy cop dramas.
- You are not looking for crime fiction.
Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of The Lost Woman of Santacruz using the link below.