Sunday, 3 August 2014

Book Review: Dead in a Mumbai Minute by Madhumita Bhattacharyya

Madhumita Bhattacharyya has brought out a sequel to her previous book The Masala Murder which saw ace detective Reema Ray, dusky, pretty, strong and clever, not necessarily in that order, in action. Reema Ray continues the good fight against evil in Dead in a Mumbai Minute, but this time, as a member of Titanium, the best detective agency in India. Actually, Titanium is not just a detective agency. Rather, it is a security solutions provider, combining the best of corporate efficiency, thoroughness, professionalism and organization to keep people safe, that is, those who can afford to pay for Titanium’s services. Titanium also dabbles in some serious stuff involving India’s security and Bhattacharyya hints at dangerous operations undertaken by Shayak, Titanium’s founder and CEO, but doesn’t disclose much. Shayak used to be an army officer with a passion for covert operations who founded Titanium after leaving the army. Shayak is so well connected that he is able to pull strings and get access to places which ordinary civilians cannot even dream of having, one of the reasons for Titanium’s success.

When the story starts, we are presented with a murder on a private island owned by fading movie star Kimaya. Reema has just been hired by Titanium, or rather by Shayak. The victim is Ashutosh Dingre, formerly Kimaya’s agent, one of the last gentlemen in the profession, we are told. Reema is thrown into the deep end, getting to know Titanium and its processes and at the same time, starting the murder investigation.

Shayak is single, good looking, very influential, owns a yatch and Reema is naturally attracted towards him. In fact, before hiring Reema (she was running her own outfit in Kolkata and had had impressed the hell out of Shayak during an investigation), there had been a kiss. I will say no more, other than that the chemistry between Reema and Shayak lends a Mills and Boonish air to Dead in a Mumbai Minute. This is not necessarily bad, but if you are expecting a hard-nosed detective who has locked away all her emotions, you may be disappointed. Reema is a real person, who likes to cook, bake, drink, date and seems to have a crush on Shayak, but maintains a professional air throughout. The situation is further complicated by the fact that Shayak was briefly married to Kimaya before her movie career took off.

Bhattacharyya has put in some effort to make her characters real and she succeeds to a large extent, if you ignore the quasi Mills and Boon-esque Shayak, who is s perfect . Also, there is nothing realistic about Titanium, a hi-tech, super advanced organization which could put the CIA or Mossad to shame. Bhattacharyya’s description of Titanium reminded me a bit of Ian Flemming novel, but this works to the novel’s advantage.

Dead in a Mumbai Minute is a cerebral mystery and the action sequences are limited in number, but when the call to action comes, Reema proves to be equal to the task. I should add that the fights are reasonably realistic and I enjoyed them.

Bhattacharyya’s biggest success lies in the fact that she keeps her readers guessing and turning pages till the end. With 300-odd rather densely packed pages, Dead in a Mumbai Minute is not a book which one can read in one go – I took three days to finish it. However, with impeccable, but simple English and very good editing (I don’t think I spotted even a single mistake), the pages do glide by. As the novel ends, Bhattacharyya lays the ground work for the third book in what’s obviously meant to be a trilogy. That’s one book I’ll be looking forward to reading.

Dead in a Mumbai Minute is not a continuation of The Masala Murder and one need not have read The Masala Murder to follow Dead in a Mumbai Minute.

On the whole Dead in a Mumbai Minute is a well-written yarn and I would recommend it to everyone who likes a good thriller or mystery.