About the author:
Surendra Mohanty writes short stories. He served in the Indian Navy and retired as a Commander. This is his first novel.
Cover and blurb:
For me, the cover is the first impression that a book gives. I didn’t like it at all. It felt very childish and immature. The blurb felt interesting, and Ruskin Bond’s thought on the back cover was quite a recommendation. That’s what made me feel that the book deserves a chance.
My thoughts on the book:
Fire in the Rain… an odd title choice that confused me throughout the book, and it didn’t make sense till the last scene. Even then I’m not sure if that would be a proper title. So for those confused with the title, the book is a crime fiction genre.
Have you ever been drunk so much that you don’t remember a thing about the previous night? Well, such a situation starts us off, with Rehaan waking up in such a state, only to find a police officer and an army major there in his room to greet him. Why? Because the girl he was with the previous night was murdered and dumped close by. Not the best way to wake up, eh? The investigation starts then and there, with Rehaan dragged to the dumpsite to identify the body. Then there is a flashback to the previous night, before things speed up with an investigation of an even earlier incident to connect strings for this murder. While these two are being investigated, the author takes us to the mind of the criminal, as he commits more murders. Then we have a twist to the story towards the end.
For me, a good crime fiction needs to have four factors going its way – quick and engaging narration, the detective, the suspects and the motive for the crime. Yes, the narration was quick and engaging, and I finished my read in a few hours. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it can’t be put down once you start it, but it is good. The detective leading the investigation is ACP of the Mumbai Police, Jaswant Rao Kale. For a policeman presented as confident and in control, I felt Kale to be the opposite at times. When he can’t make head or tail of the case, he goes to a criminal psychologist for getting a profile made. It reminded me of the Numb3rs series on TV. I liked the idea, but just on a hunch by the psychologist about where the killer would strike next, Kale decides to go with it. It felt like clutching at straws. The suspects are toned down to two, Rehaan and the guy he was with, Varun. Seemed logical, given that they were two of the last three people seen with the victim, but I don’t know how within hours of the murder, the investigators pinpointed Rehaan, or found Sarika. Or even why Sarika was excluded as a potential killer. Since it is shown later that the sexual activity may have been consensual, that could easily have included Sarika too. But I quite enjoyed the “non existential” suspect idea, when Varun can’t be found. I thought it could have been a nice twist. I could see the pattern between the victims (not the dates of murder but the victims themselves) easily, so maybe the character of the psychologist was just to point toward the next city. Though Varun does come across as charming and all that, I don’t see the connection between what happened to him and his actions killing a girl on Friday the Thirteenth. Why kill four girls and then say all is fine after that? Why even kill for that matter? It left me wanting to know more about him, and that I didn’t get because of the dramatic ending. The motive for killing is trauma, which is somewhat understandable. After a shock, he turns to killing. But what I don’t understand is why it took 4 years for the killer in him to awaken? There were many Friday the Thirteenths in between, and for an angry man who wants to exact revenge, I don’t quite see him waiting 4 years to get past it and then get back to the past and begin killing. Even if he’s hunting a girl with those “characteristics”, it felt odd.
What works in the book? The pace and convincing narration takes you on an engaging trip. Though the three factors of detective, suspect and motive work only in parts, it is not completely absent. And the story feels like it could have happened. The investigation is thorough, and even has a few red herrings thrown in to keep the reader guessing.
Overall, a nice and quick read. What needs to change, and quickly, is the cover. That is a big turn off, and I can emphatically tell that a few of my friends, on seeing just the cover, questioned my judgement to even consider this book as a possible good read. I must mention though that this is a self published book, so good to see that the author to back his story and get the publishing work done himself. Best wishes for his future crime fictions.
Title: Fire in the Rain
Author: Surendra Mohanty
Genre: Crime Fiction
Price: INR. 100
(Aug 3rd, 2013)