Category Archives: Thriller

The Conundrum – A Review

Book Title: The Conundrum
Author: Ajita Jabal Shah


The Conundrum


The Story

The Conundrum tells the story of Maia, brought up in a relatively sheltered world by open-minded parents who encourage her to follow her dreams. And that of Ajay, a poor farmer’s son, who has toiled his way to college. They don’t seem to be made for each other and yet they come together to make a story that makes its way from Baroda all the way to Champaner.

What I liked

This is a simple story, simply told. To begin with, I liked Maia as the protagonist. She’s a modern-day girl, smart and pretty and a bit of a feminist, just the way I like them. The arranged-marriage-groom-hunting scenarios were only too real and brought back memories. The masala chai and the ‘letting the youngsters talk’ were only too familiar.

My favourite, however, were the little touches that the author included in her descriptions. The smells, the sights, the clothes – those are things that made the story come alive for me. The smell of Rajnigandha, the sight of a flaming Gulmohur, the Bougainvillea and the Banyan, the singing of bulbuls and chirping of sparrows – those  images stayed with me.

What could have been better

On the flip side, I wish the author had taken more time to build the characters, other than Maia. Given that this is a love story (according to the blurb) we didn’t get to see many glimpses of Ajay’s life and as a result couldn’t form a connection.

Also there were a host of other characters, too many of them – Nirav, Swapna, Nupur, Manan, Nitish, Nalini, Neelu. They ended up cluttering the narrative. Fewer characters with more flesh on them would perhaps have worked better for me. I would have definitely liked to know more about Nitya, her life and her struggles, given that she has such a pivotal role. The book needed to be longer.

Oh and there were easily avoidable editing errors:
‘Ringed a bell’ for ‘rang a bell’, ‘Effluent sangeet ceremony’ instead of ‘affluent ceremony’, and ‘sheer korma for sheer khurma/khorma’.

Last thoughts: This one makes for a light easy travelling companion.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in return for an honest and unbiased review.


Birds of Prey – A review

Birds of Prey by Archana Sarat


Let me begin by saying that the deep dark world of psychological thrillers is not one I would like to delve into. However, and this is a disclaimer, I had to pick up Birds of Prey because it is authored by a friend. That said I have been completely impartial in my review, or so I hope. There is definitely something about the trailer and the cover – chilling yet intriguing – that makes one want to read this book.

The story

When a number of men from affluent families are abducted in quick succession police suspect a serial offender is on the prowl. Ex ACP Anton Pinto is pulled out from his peaceful life of retirement in Goa to the Mumbai crime scene to help track the killer. In keeping with his promise to his wife, Anton tries not to get involved in the case even while providing insights to the investigating team. However when yet another man is abducted he rescinds his promise and throws himself into the chase, trawling through schools and old age homes in search of his quarry. Then, the inevitable happens as the hunter becomes the prey and Anton finds himself trapped in a well that seems impossible to escape from.

That’s all I am going to tell you here. Go read the book for more.

What I liked

I read the book in a single sitting. It’s that gripping. You may figure out the ‘who’ early on but the ‘how’ keeps you turning the pages. It’s a simple enough plot but I liked the way the story unfolded, bit by bit, clue by clue – just how a thriller should.

I need to like or at least understand the characters to like a book. Birds of Prey did that for me. Anton is very likeable, so is his wife Sheeba and most of Anton’s colleagues even though they only have minor parts to play. In fact, the characters have been drawn out with clarity and consistency.

The story comes from multiple perspectives, each of them convincing, making you struggle to take sides. So while you understand Anton’s itch to get back to crime solving you also understand his wife’s reservations; while you of course root for Anton, you feel for the antagonist too, who is far from all black.

Also, compared with the Indian authors’ works on offer, the editing was decent enough, not perfect, but nothing jumps out at you or takes away from the flow of the story, for that I am grateful.

What I didn’t like

Some developments, I felt, came a bit too easily – some revelations during Anton’s  investigation as well as the final escape in the last few pages.

My one major issue with the book would be the description of sexual violence, which was graphic and gory. I could feel the dread in me grow as the chilling bits approached and details of abuse became only too real. I wouldn’t recommend it to young adults or the faint-hearted. But I guess that’s the way psychological thrillers are meant to be, so this is just me. I did say in the beginning that this isn’t my favourite genre.

Oh and the end is tailor-made for a sequel, so that’s something to look forward to.

Last thought: Pick it up if you are intrigued by edge-of-the-seat thrillers that can result from the workings of twisted minds (and I mean that of the antagonist here!).

The Devil’s Prayer – A Review

The Devil’s Prayer by Luke Gracias

I picked up this book because it promised to be a thriller with a dose of history and religion – a mix I have come to enjoy since I got hooked onto read Dan Brown’s books. It doesn’t disappoint.


But first

The story…

The Devil’s Prayer opens with the suicide of Sister Benedictine before thousands of revellers. It is revealed that six years ago she had disappeared from her home to become a nun. News of her suicide reaches her family in Australia. Her daughters, Siobhan and Jess, and her mother Edith are devastated. 23-year-old Siobhan is most affected. In search of closure she decides to go to the monastery in Spain where her mum Denise had lived as Sister Benedectine.

She is surprised at the less than hospitable welcome she receives. Despite being advised to go back she stays long enough to find her mum’s confession. As she starts reading it she is intrigued and then shocked. Even as she is going through the confession she realises that she is being followed by some extremist monks. With no clue what the monks want from her Siobhan makes her roller-coaster way across Europe to reach the sanctuary of home.

At the end of the confession her mum entrusts Siobhan with a task which, if not completed, could destroy the world.

What I liked

It is hard to categorise this book. All I will say is that it is an interesting melange of history and religion with some super natural element thrown in for good measure. There is also a revenge saga that forms a large part of the story.

It is most definitely a fast paced thriller and keeps you at hooked. There is enough intrigue and plenty of twists and turns through the narrative to keep you turning the pages. As you follow Denise’s confession along with Siobhan you are by turns surprised, saddened and shocked. Without adding spoilers all I’ll say is that Denise’s desperation and her unhappy compromise were well written. Finally the deal she strikes and the deception come as a surprise.

I loved the way the plot integrated the super-natural into Denise’s story.

What I didn’t like

The violence in the book is brutal and gory. I couldn’t read through some of it and ended up skipping the worst parts. Also, the religious explanations get complicated at places and I lost the plot in bits.

I found some of the characters very stereotypical but they were side characters so one could let them be.

Then there’s the supernatural element which might not cut water with many readers. Some of it is improbable and requires you to stretch your imagination but then that’s what the super-natural is supposed to do. Personally, I liked it.

The worst thing about the book, however, was that it ended just at the most compelling part. There simply HAS to be a sequel.

My verdict: Go for it.


Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from Writers Melon in return for an honest and unbiased review.