The Second Book Featuring Mehrunissa Khosa
By Manreet Sodhi Someshwar
Mehrunissa Khosa – Art Historian, Intelligent, Resourceful, with a troubled past
RP Singh – Sr CP, Police, straight but tough, with a deep and silent passion for Mehru
Raghav – Quintessential straight tough cop
Mystery Guy – Find out who in the novel. Cant say more!
Babur Khan – Also a mystery. American Muslim, Ex-US Army, but a terrorist. Methinks we might meet him again…
Jag Mishra – RAW boss. And a raw boss, if you can get a dual application of terms
For me, this was the most awaited book of this year. And to cut a long story short, it was worth it. And in more ways than one. A book which, to me, conclusively establishes Mrs Manreet’s credentials in the .fiction world. A book which is a let-down in one way, but a huge, huge positive in another. A let down since you expected another chase through clues and hints – a-la Dan Brown; but a huge positive since you are treated to a book that is completely different in style and approach to the earlier work. A let down since you expected a tense and bitter sweet love story between Mehru and RPS, but a huge positive since you are in its place treated to a story that builds pace slowly and gains momentum, carrying you alongwith itself, with no obvious flaws in the basic plot of the story, save one minor point, which, though not a flaw, seems a bit far-fetched. But that I can overlook; as it adds to the overall story, and carries it forward. And, this is fiction!
This is the book which establishes the characterisation of Mehrunissa Khosa, started in the first book in much more firm tones. She is more deeply etched and defined. It is a book about Mehrunissa Khosa – start to finish, and no one else. It is about how she gets entangled in a major terror plot, and is practically forced to help in the investigation, with grave risk to her own life and liberty, in a headlong 96-hour race that will determine the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands – as well as the lives of her loved ones. It is a book of an innocent citizen getting caught in the biggest international hot-spot – India/Pakistan, and how she is brutally used to further national interest. It is also about how she finally manages to see both the national interest and her own, and win.
The characterisation, is in keeping with the boundaries established in the first book., and has in fact given us a deeper understanding of the central character of the series, who emerges much more clearly defined. All other characters are subjugated in terms of characterisation, which is in keeping with the objective of the series – which is about Mehrunissa Khosa. Of course, the author will need to ensure that RP Singh is also adequately fleshed out later in the series, as the main support character.
The book builds up slowly, first establishing the plot and the background. The story starts almost in a apologetic mode, in a hesitant fashion – but engaging as well, as our heroine gets caught in the elaborate trap. The story matches the expected reaction – slow and hesitant. You cant expect a historian to become a spy at the flick of a switch, unlike so many other novels I have read. The change is slow, hesitant and stumbling. Then, just as a normal person would adjust to the new realities, so too the story as well picks up pace, as Mehrunissa goes about her assigned tasks.
The first half of the book lays the plot and the background of the entire scenario with characterisation of the supporting characters. This is not wasted, as it has been well done – not too much detail, not too little; just enough detail to enable you to understand each character and his or her motives. Each characters reasons for behaving as they did has been clearly spelled out, which actually gives a deep understanding of the scenario, enhancing your reading pleasure. Point is that this is not your standard thriller or a headlong race. It is in fact an engaging book, reasonably fast-paced, and enthralling, a book in which you can actually see both sides of the coin, a book which is an engaging story while being a thriller.
The scenes literally play out in front of your eyes, so vivid is the description and so rich is the language used – rich, but simple. This is what the combination of deep characterisation and effective narrative has attained, something I have only seen once before- in Jill McGivering’s The Last Kestrel – http://reflectionsvvk.blogspot.in/2012/08/book-review-last-kestrel.html. This book is another in this category. And the most powerful point is that the 2 books of Mehrunissa are totally different in every feature – unlike other series, where the books’ layout is largely similar. This is a mute testimony to the quality of writing. All in all, well worth a read; a truly good book…