By Anu Kumar; Grade: B
I love good mystery novels. I love the anticipation, I love the thrill, and I love feeling that says I’m right there and a witness to what’s happening. So when I was offered It Takes a Murder, I instantly said yes. How did I like it?
A darkly lyrical and slyly ambiguous account of love, loss and fury.
When Gautam Dogra is found murdered in his study one afternoon in the small hill station of Brooks Town, the police dismiss it as a relatively simple case. But Charlotte Hyde knows well that a murder never happens in a day-it follows its own timeline.
As Kerketta, Charlotte’s old retainer, always said, a murder is written into your life at the very beginning. As Charlotte begins telling the story of Dogra’s death, it soon becomes clear that his story can only be fully understood in the light of many other stories. Of her estranged daughter, Maddy, of the political climes in which they lived. Of lost hopes and lost loves, of small humiliations and disillusionments and, above all, of the slow incitement to violence that the terror of loss brings into quiet lives.
Beginning with the book jacket, I have to say, both the cover and the title are intriguing. I liked the green tint of the cover; it was very apt for a murderous book. Add to that, the extremely well written blurb, and I had expectations of a spectacular novel full of suspense.
Expectations, which I later found out, were very unrealistic, because this story is not an out-and-out mystery whodunit novel. It’s more of stories within stories within stories, with the murder only being the backdrop. It’s literary crime fiction, so please do not expect any nail biting suspense.
Let me begin with the good points. The most amazing thing about the book, and probably its only redeeming quality is the prose. The author’s writing style is almost poetic, making the prose a delight to read. I liked the way she described the locale of a hill station with élan. Her lyrical prose brings to life the sleepy little town in the reader’s head: her way with words speaks of a deep and lasting relationship with writing.
The characters were nicely etched out, I suppose, but sometimes, I felt that they were inconsistent. Certain things seemed out of character, and even a little forced. Also, frankly speaking, I didn’t like the protagonist, Charlotte, as a character. I just couldn’t connect with her.
Also, one of the biggest problems that I had with the book was how sporadic it was. You could never tell where or even when you are, because everything except the writing was secondary. This book is not plot-driven. It’s all about the characters. Which sounds good, but may prove frustrating to the reader who is not even sure whether he or she is in the past or the present!
Also, the character count is just way too much. So many characters appear and leave, and you can never keep track on them.
The mystery gets forgotten completely, and that, I think, is what I found most disappointing. The book is more of a story of Charlotte’s life, which she narrates sporadically, shifting in time, with the murder only used to initiate this storytelling. It is like that one domino that falls, causing the others to fall. It just provides for a backdrop against which Charlotte can tell her story.
Over all, I like the author, and I think she has plenty- and by that I mean plenty times plenty- of potential, but this story didn’t make me go wow when I finished it at all. And from an author who is obviously very talented, I expected nothing less. So even though I look forward to reading anything the author pens down after this, this one just didn’t work for me.