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Book Review: The Shrine of Death by Divya Kumar

It is always refreshing to read a thriller that grips your attention from the word go and sustain the excitement till the last word. The Shrine of Death by Divya Kumar takes us into a murky world of idol theft. The reason I chose this book is the hope of reliving the experience of ‘Kailashe Kelenkari (a story in the Feluda series by Satyajit Ray, which also deals with the theft of a priceless artefact from the Rajarajeshwari Temple, and an international smuggling racket).

Prabha Sinha, an IT professional in Chennai, is drawn into the investigation of the mysterious disappearance of her friend Sneha Pillai. I have always loved the prospect of a female investigator and this book delivered it with élan. As Prabha delves more and more into Sneha’s life, she is sucked into a maze of deceit, betrayal and illegalities. She has Jai Vadehra, who comes with his own baggage of a tragic past, to help her solve this mystery, along with DSP Gerard Ratnaraj of CID’s Idol Wing.

Since the book deals with idol theft, there are temples involved, dating back to the days of the Chola Kingdom. As a reader, I was longing to read more about the history of these times, but the author chose to stead clear of that track. After all, this book is a historical thriller, and one expects a dose or two of history, even if not a detailed thesis as one would encounter in a Dan Brown novel.

Instead, there is a subplot involving a romantic angle between Prabha and the DSP. The scenes have been written daftly, communicating the sexual attraction to the readers, without delving into eroticism. Talking about writing, the pace of the story keeps you riveted to the plot. Despite a lot of characters, the reader is allowed to keep focus on the main plot involving Sneha and the idols. While the writing is crisp, the language often borders on the casual.

India is a land of varied cultures and diverse traditions. No wonder many authors these days choose the historical/mythological fiction genre of writing. The Shrine of Death is a good first attempt by Divya Kumar. Will look forward to reading more of her works in the future.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

P.S. This review is part of the Flipkart Bloggers’ Affiliate Programme



Book Review: Mango People In Banana Republic by Vishak Shakti

Disillusionment with one’s career is a common pattern among millennials these days and Ravi Bhalerao is no exception. He is a business strategy consultant who is among those hundreds and thousands who are unsure about the future.

What sets him apart is that he decides to quit his job, ditch the urban life and shift to his ancestral village in Vidarbha, infamous for drought and farmer suicides. No this is not the plot of ‘Swades’ but a blurb of the book ‘Mango People In Banana Republic’ by Vishak Shakti.

This is also the story of Anand, a former physicist who has set on a spiritual quest through esoteric India. He seeks refuge in the Ashrams of various babas and gurus, Beleaguered by the shenanigans of the various cults, he questions the path to “liberation” that he was treading so far.

On the other hand, Ravi comes across India in her elemental form in Vidarbha. He finds a mission, encounters love and embarks on a path of redemption from his disillusionment.

As the name suggests, ‘Mango People In Banana Republic’ is a light-hearted take on the current situation of the country. As Ravi sets out on a search for personal identity, we are also taken on a ‘discovery of India’ ride by the author. With tongue-in-cheek writing, oodles of wit and humour, and a pacy narrative, the book easily wins hearts.

Being an enthusiast of Indian politics, and social activist of sorts myself, this book was relatable to a huge extent. Hailing from a small town, I have often felt disillusioned with the fast-paced city life, the corporate ‘snakes and ladders’ and also faced moments when I had no clue where my life was headed.

Gandhi Ji had truly said true India resides in the villages. And often I have realised this when I have visited rural Bengal (or even the small mufassil towns). Ravi’s quest for self-identity, juxtaposed against the societal and political ills that ail our great nation, and how he chooses to fight them, touches a chord indeed.

To sum up, ‘Mango People In Banana Republic’ is a delightful read on a hot summer afternoon, with a plateful of mangoes to munch on as you turn the pages. Looking forward to reading more of Vishak Shakti’s works.

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

P.S. The review copy of the book was provided by Writersmelon.




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