About the author:
Piyush Jha is an acclaimed film director, ad filmmaker and a first-time novelist. His first book, Mumbaistan is also of the same genre, with three crime thriller novellas set in Mumbai as well.
Impressions from the cover:
Other than the bright yellow color, the design is actually toned down. A silhouette with a compass in hand, and blood red over the silhouette of Mumbai city is enough to peak interest.
Impressions from the blurb:
A thriller that starts with a murder of a policeman definitely has prospects. I’m not quite sure of the reporter angle, that’s a touch that could go either way. The criminal sounds intelligent too, so eager to read.
My thoughts on the book:
For me, a crime fiction has three very distinct elements, in addition to a gripping plot. Those three are the detective, the suspects (including the eventual guilty one) and of course, the motive. Depending on how these three blend with that gripping plot, I feel it makes or breaks the story.
Plotline: A serial killer surfaces in Mumbai, and his first target is a senior officer in the Mumbai Police. Step in Inspector Virkar, chief investigator to solve the crime. His first clue is by stroke of luck, but can he piece together the events so luck doesn’t play a part to save other lives, from clues that the killer leaves in a student’s geometry box?
The Detective: Inspector Virkar, inspector in the crime branch of the Mumbai police. Smart, diligent, sensible and with a sense of justice. Has a strange affection for talking to himself with Hindi quotes that are humorous, and loves a brand of beer that is very hard to get. He goes by his own instincts rather than what other people try to put in his head. I liked the detective and his attitude. It sat well with me.
The Suspects: In this case, it is just one suspect, but we are unknowing of who he is, what’s his real name, how he will strike next, and how deep the chain of the serial killings will go. So it isn’t an interrogative crime fiction, but a thriller. The criminal is an intelligent one, and his clues only point to the name of the next victim, not how or where the strike will be, leaving Virkar and the police to think how to stop him. He is methodical, and I liked the method. He even baits the police to try and lead him to a victim.
The Motive: Love and affection for a person, that the victims are connected to, and that leads to revenge, the most popular motive for murder usually. It’s not a very clear motive in the context of this plot perhaps, but it works.
So if the three aspects work, and the plot is gripping, what doesn’t work? Well, the ending. The suspect still doesn’t get apprehended, and it is left that way. Felt out of place. The other two places I felt out of place were: firstly, the dying declaration of a possible victim that points to the suspect. I felt that if the victim could piece two and two together at that time, he could have done it before too, and saved his life (which he knew was at stake). Secondly, I felt that with her blackmailer dead and no reason to fear consequences anymore, the reporter needn’t have filed a complaint against Virkar at the end. It didn’t make sense to me. However, these two instances do not hinder the gripping plotline. It’s only at the end of the novel that I wondered about the same.
As far as crime thrillers go, this was every bit as interesting and gripping as I hoped it would be. I haven’t read his debut novel, and I would be trying to get my hands on it as soon as possible. I look forward to more in the Mumbaistan series as well.
Title: Compass Box Killer
Series: Mumbaistan Series #2
Author: Piyush Jha
Genre: Crime Thriller
Publishers: Rupa Publications
Price: INR. 195
(July 18th, 2013)