Manreet Sodhi Someshwar features in my list of favourite contemporary Indian authors since 2013, when I first read her ‘The Taj Conspiracy’. A fan since then, I have waited for her to gift us the next instalment in the Mehrunisa series. It has been a long wait, rendered fruitful thanks to this exciting new murder mystery.
‘Girls and the City’ is more than just a murder mystery. It is a commentary on our current society, issues confronting our generation, the uncomfortable truths we all want to brush inside the carpet. Despite the seriousness of the plot, not for once does the book become preachy, or soporific – all thanks to the ‘cool’ writing style.
The story unfolds on a rainy Bengaluru evening, and then takes us back in time on how the events came to be. The lingering suspense, specially the witness statements made during police interrogation, at the end of each chapter, will keep you on tenterhooks.
The book is an easy page-turner, and you’d find it hard to put it down. The free-flowing narrative, and the easy and much-used modern day lingo keep you glued till the end. Even the characters are relatable! Leela is a single mother, struggling to balance work and motherhood. Reshma is a workaholic, young woman we often encounter at corporate offices. Juhi is an ambitious girl who has just started off on her career, and can go to any extremes to move ahead in life. All of them have dark secrets in their closets.
It is hard not to be able to relate to these characters – the work-life balance, struggle for companionship, living away from home in a big city, office politics, struggle to manage finances. In fact, the story took me back to the two years I spent in Bangalore (and what a coincidence that even I used to stay on rent at Indiranagar). Deadlines, office outings, weekend parties at Toit, leisuring at cafes with friends – those were the days!
But most importantly, ‘Girls and the City’ presents to us a picture of ‘new’ India – where even today, girls ate sexually harassed by bosses, single mothers still find it difficult to arrange a flat on rent, girls are judged for staying out late, and no matter how good a parent a mother is, the father’s identity is far more important.
Manreet Sodhi Someshwar paints a picture of our new modern, urban India, through the eyes of three girls, who want to survive in the city. And she excels in her endeavour!
P.S. The reference to Mehrunisa series was an icing on the cake.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Close on the heels of the thriving success of The Taj Conspiracy, Manreet Sodhi Someshwar is back with yet another adventure trail. The ‘Dan Brown’ of India, Sodhi takes us through one of the best thrillers ever written in Indian literature.The book chronicles the journey of Mehrunisa- an Iranian-Indian, trained in Renaissance art and Mughal history; who has an aristocratic look that masks a tenacious and strong-willed woman with a troubled past. The strings that were left untied in the first book of the trilogy – regarding Mehrunisa’s past – have been cleared in this segment.
It is difficult to be a woman in a man’s world, and I must congratulate Manreet for consolidating her space in the genre of thriller-writers. The research that has gone behind this book shows in the fact that one forgets they are reading a fictional novel, and not some secret dossier of the intelligence agency. Perfectly in sync with the geo-political situation in the sub-continent, the book stands out as a mystery thriller – with a difference.
While keeping the pace of the story intact, the author squeezes in a sub-plot of bitter-sweet love story between RP Singh and Mehrunisa. At times, small incidents – often narrated in the passing – become telling examples of how different the lives of people would have been if the powers that be laid their political games to rest. The biggest skill of Manreet is that her words paint the whole scene right in front of the eyes of the reader. One can never stop visualising the action in the eyes of the mind.
Although, i must concede, the plot – after reaching a crescendo – fizzles out in the final few chapters. I had this same problem with The Taj Conspiracy. Despite the twists in the tale, deft narration and precise characterisation, the hurry to wrap the show, kills the interest.
If the extra flab could have been got ridden of, and the climax rethought to some extent (without relying too much on coincidences), this book would have been flawless. However, read it for a great insight into the operations of the intel world.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
About the author
Manreet Sodhi Someshwar trained as an engineer, graduated from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, and worked in marketing, advertising and consulting. An award-winning writer (Commonwealth Broadcasting Association), and copywriter (Creative Abbey), she is a popular blogger as well.
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