Book review – Deepti Menon
Andy Karan, the intrepid protagonist of ‘Catching the Departed’, published by Tara India Research Press, would probably be a dream detective in Bollywood! As the description goes, “Andy was always hungry for adventure”, informs the reader of why he becomes an investigative journalist, after a stint in the Indian Army. The action begins when Monica, his beautiful boss at the New Delhi Today magazine, sends him to Tilakpur to look into the murder of Ram Avtar, a drunk who knew too much about a terror plot.
There Andy meets Gulabo, Ram Avtar’s wife, who exudes “the pride which comes from living with bare minimum needs and surrounded by nature”. She admits that her husband has been killed.
The action speeds up as Andy is accosted in his hotel room and hit on the head by unknown assailants. When he regains consciousness, he finds himself in Safdarjung Hospital with concussion, along with the realization that he has stirred up a hornet's nest in the midst of a mystery that needs to be solved.
When he meets the elusive Mr. Kapoor, he senses that there are bigger elements at play, and a national emergency to boot. Much against Monica’s wishes, he goes back to Tilakpur, where he walks into Gulabo’s house and straight into a trap. Author Kulpreet Yadav keeps the tension alive, as Andy unravels the mystery, strand by strand, aware that his enemies are always one step ahead of him. He carries on relentlessly, for “where life and death become part of a plan, Andy Karan felt most comfortable.”
There are many questions that tantalize the reader. What is happening in the island fort of Marud Janjira? Who is the enemy that Andy has to face? Why is this a matter of life and death? What roles do Monica, and her influential boss, Krishna Bedi, have to play in the entire plot? Will Andy be able to cut through the brambles and act before it is too late?
There are many pawns in the game that play their parts and disappear. The action continues, unabated, as Andy goes through a gamut of feelings, from overweening confidence to the nadir of despair, when he compares himself to his unfortunate namesake from the Mahabharata. These moments make him intensely human, even though they are momentary.
The story hurtles towards a climax that is chilling. The style is racy, the narrative gripping. There is a sense of familiarity as the reader traverses through many landmarks in Delhi. This is a book that sticks to its genre of crime fiction faithfully, and pins its readers to the edge of their seats. Thus, it comes as no surprise that it was shortlisted for the Hachette-DNA ‘Hunt for the Next Bestseller’.
If there is one aspect that would have added on to the appeal of the book, it is the characterization of Monica. Maybe, the author could have fleshed her out a little more, and made her more authentic. One gets the feeling that she was more of a glamorous prop and less of a living and breathing person who made a difference to the narration.
Apart from that one point, ‘Catching the Departed’ comes across as a true blue mystery. Andy Karan reveals enough charisma to charm his readers in the future as well!
Verdict: A racy, interesting read!