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Book Review: The Kaafir’s Love by Abhisar Sharma

A book written by Abhisar Sharma is always a treat to read. I remember calling him ‘India’s answer to Frederick Forsyth’ in the review of ‘The Edge of the Machete’. There is hardly a match for him, when it comes to writing thrillers, and his latest book ‘The Kaafir’s Love’ is no exception.

As the name suggests, the book is essentially a love story – but in India, love can be life-threatening. India is a country with her feet in the 21st century, but her heart and mind in the eighteenth century. Regressive beliefs, predominance of faith in decision-making, sinister politicking, rigid caste equations are pulling this country backward even as we talk of bullet trains and digital boom. In the age of anti-Romeo squads and honour killings, it is hazardous and perilous to fall in love. Sameer, the protagonist of this novel committed that mistake.

Sameer, a young lad from the lower echelons of the society, lives in the ‘Walled City’ in Chandni Chowk. As luck would have it, he is smitten by Inara, the daughter of the local businessman, Imtiaz, who has his fingers in all the wrong pies for money-making. Although Naseer, Sameer’s bosom-buddy, tries to dissuade the latter, he pursues Inara and they fall in love.

Even as two young hearts committed themselves to each other in the ‘Walled City’, the socio-political amity of the neighbourhood is dealt a blow by two successive incidents. As the city is brought to the brink of a communal backlash, the young lovers decide to elope.What follows is a thrilling tale of betrayal, savagery, and kitchen politics. Old skeletons tumble out of the closet, upsetting equations.

The most enjoyable element of this book is its thrill quotient and the element of surprise. The moment you start expecting the plot to traverse a linear trajectory, a sudden twist changes the course of events. Abhisar’s lucid writing, and the vivid imagery of his words transform the novel into a ‘motion picture’ of sorts. From passionate descriptions of Sameer-Inara’s intimate moments to gruesome scenes of brutal violence – Abhisar’s detailed narrative does not let your attention slack.

It is true that the overall plot bears slight resemblance to the movie ‘Sairat’, only the caste division replaced with religious tension. But then this could well have been Abhisar’s take on Romeo and Juliet, in an Indian setting. That is the universality of the core concept of ‘The Kaafir’s Love’. This is not just a love story, but a social commentary on the current socio-political situation prevalent in the country.

‘The Kaafir’s Love’ is the perfect companion for an idyllic Sunday afternoon.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

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



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


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