On a muggy monsoon afternoon Sohini Sen gets a call from the chief minister’s office. A young woman from a well-connected family in the city has been found brutally murdered. Sen is brought back from a bureaucratic wasteland to the thick of the action. An intelligent and intuitive investigator who struggles with addiction and depression, Sen is ill-prepared for an investigation that is a political minefield with TV anchors and tabloids baying for blood. As various interested parties, armed with power and money, try to manipulate the murder enquiry, Sen is forced to question the very possibility of justice. A moody, atmospheric novel that is as much about the Indian city and the dark depths of the human mind as it is about crime and investigation, City of Death marks the debut of a brilliant new voice.
Thoughts : Described as comparable to Forbrydelsen (The Killing for those who watch the Americanised show) this book caught my attention and I couldn’t help but request one for review.
The main characters in this book (based on POV) are Sohini Sen, Arjun Sinha and the murderer. The murderer is where we start and it has a very Dexter vibe to it. In fact, after reading the first page I stopped reading the other books I was in the middle of and continued with this. The story jumps between POVs and gives you a 360 view of what is happening in the story, the most mysterious portion being the Killer’s.
I absolutely adored Sohini Sen as a character, she is an alcoholic who is abusing her prescription meds and is struggling to deal with her life as a “failed” cop. When we first see her she’s taking off on a trip to do the unthinkable! So it’s very interesting to see what happens with her and what drove her to this and why she is struggling. The second was Arjun and his character was well etched as well. You can see the clear distinction between them and it is wonderful to see an Indian thriller where the characters do not get mixed up.
The story itself wasn’t as pleasing to me. While the theme was interesting and the story was well plotted the writing style is more suited to a pedagogic book. Or non fiction. The author writes in a dispassionate and impersonal way that makes you feel uninvolved with the story. (Also third person present tense and you know how I feel about that) You’ll find yourself not really caring about what happens next and I thought that was the biggest issue with the book. I still gave it a 2.5 to 3 stars because the language was excellent, not simplistic enough to make the reader feel stupid and not difficult enough to make reading an effort. But it is not enough for me to pick up the author’s next book the second it comes out.
Author Abheek Barua has done a wonderful job with the characters here though. I’m writing this review a few days after reading it and I find that I can perfectly picture the smallest characters without difficult. While main characters usually are well written in international fiction what he has done is make even the secondary and tertiary characters distinctive. You could say who is speaking without looking for the name and that is a brilliant talent right there. I hope he writes his next book in a more passionate manner.
You will like this if you liked Rakshas by Piyush Jha or The Widow by Fiona Barton.
I was very kindly sent a copy for review by the publisher, opinions expressed are my own.