There are very few historical fictions which have managed to keep me engaged. The catch to a historical thriller is that it must accomplish two things… firstly, transport me to the time in the past and paint that scene vividly; secondly, it must keep me glued to it to know what is going to happen in the next page. As with any thriller, there are two kinds. One that starts out with action and keeps that throughout the novel; and the other blends both detail and thrill. With “Far Beyond the Dead End”, Saikat Baksi brings out a novel of the latter kind, but one that is a love story more than anything else.
The setting for the love story is Mohenjo-Daro, part of the Indus Valley Civilization that is steeped in Indian history. To explore a story there explores the setting as much as the characters. The author’s research in this is deep, and it makes the story much more believable I feel with ideas like bathing platforms and common well-rooms at the start of the novel, a council of leaders, seal-makers and such, even to the detail of clothing, and exchanging of gems as payment. The story starts in the present, but goes into a narration of a story three millennia ago. The story revolves around the three main characters – Koli, daughter of a council chief, beautiful and talented; Sindhu, artist and seal-maker, who is a friend of Koli’s father; Girad, who is in love (or lusting after) Koli.
The story is beautifully written. The language is simple and easy to read, and as I mentioned before, the research to bring that era to life is extensive. I like the characters as well, and I felt there are a few layers to some of them, especially the character of Koli. The depiction of life and society in those times is also well portrayed, with the concept of sacrifices to appease the gods for good fortune standing out. There aren’t as many twists in the plot as I had hoped there would be. It’s a fairly simple love story, with a hero, heroine and a villain. The mysterious deaths do add a bit more interest into the tale, but it came too deep into the novel. The initial parts of the book mostly deal with descriptions of the love/lust story and the sacrifice of a cow is the most interesting part. I’d have liked more of a thrill element in the initial parts. I also wanted to see more to the character of Girad. Granted he’s the villain of the tale, and what he does is logical, but his character felt strangely one-tone; only looking out for himself, doing what it mattered to achieve his end. And ending on a positive note (for the story), I liked the portrayal of how the end of a great civilization might have come about. It seems odd that not doing a sacrifice might bring about an end like that, but then again, it is what people believed in those times, and it is what the author does to stay true to that.
Overall, a nicely written historical fiction; more of a love story than a killer thriller, but it has the substance to keep it interesting.
Why should you read it?
Simple, easy to read narration; extensive research and nice characters; true to the time in which it is set.
What you may not like…
Not many twists; the pace is uneven. Starts out really descriptive and then all the thrill starts happening at one go. Though the end isn’t predictable, the actions of the characters are for the most part.
Title: Far Beyond The Dead End
Author: Saikat Baksi
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Srishti Publisher
Price: Rs. 150
(28th June 2014)