The eponymous Mumbai steals the show!
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
When I was perusing netgalley to find something new to read what stopped me at Murder in Mumbai was first the retro coverart and then the synopsis. It reminded me of H.R.F. Keating’s little known creation – an earnest Mumbai police inspector called Ghote.
I loved that series of books and the Ivory Merchant adaptation of the first book, The Perfect Murder. So, I requested this one from netgalley and hoped I got approved.
A day later I had it on my kindle and was immersed in the story.
I have absolutely no doubt that the author has lived and loved this city. His descriptions are hardly romantic but one can tell there is a strong attachment under it all. I’ve never been to Mumbai (or Bombay as some still call it) but I can see how one might come to fall in love with it.
Inspector Vijay Gaikwad is an honest man, who tries his best to keep his part of the city from erupting in chaos, rights the wrongs he can and has learnt to accept what he cannot. Jay Ganesh is a reporter who was once a rising star before he fell foul of the wrong people. Now he waits for another chance to redeem himself.
A woman is murdered. She is an American and a woman in a powerful position in the corporate world in India. To Vijay Gaikwad falls the unenviable task of finding her killer with the media and his own superiors breathing down his neck. On top of that Jay Ganesh turns up at the site where the body is found and Gaikwad just knows that the determined reporter won’t leave him alone till he has his story.
The story is as much Gaikwad’s as it is Jay’s. They are men from different social strata and both are always aware of it. But in doing their respective jobs they rub shoulders with the high and the low and keep strange company. They are both earnest in their search for the truth, though Jay does it because he loves the chase and Gaikwad does it because it is his duty and because he wears the uniform.
I like both characters immensely. I like their different perspectives and their obviously different personas. I like that the author didn’t make them best of friends, but uneasy allies. I liked the glimpses into their personal lives and their relationships. The story made them very real to me.
As far as the mystery goes, the author has chosen to go the route of old fashioned crime solving. A lot of legwork; cross-examinations of friends, acquaintances, colleagues and lovers. A lot of luck, some coincidences and some unfortunate misdirections. This isn’t a thriller. There isn’t a murderous maniac on the loose who might strike again any minute now. There is no running against time.
It’s a whodunit and it takes its time to unfold. The author gives us several possible suspects and leads us strongly towards some. There are no hints from which the reader might guess at the true culprit. The readers are as much in the dark as the two protagonists. When the murderer is finally found it is the result of all that thorough work and a bit of luck. This isn’t a mystery the readers can solve before the heroes with any amount of brain racking.
So, in that this book is only partially about the murder. It’s mostly about these two characters living in a city and doing their jobs. But that was enough for me.
What this book would have enormously benefited from is another go at the editing table. Almost all the problems I have with Murder in Mumbai have to do with editing. This book could have been tighter, with a little less rambling off topic. Sometimes the author seemed to forget the narrative altogether and go on for a few paragraphs about something that caught his imagination. Mostly it was something about the city. As I said before I love how this guy portrays Mumbai. He makes the city appealing even when he’s describing a mountain of garbage by the roadside. That’s certainly a testament to both his writing skill and his affection for Mumbai. I appreciate that, but every now and then in the middle of the narrative he starts pontificating about the glorious co-existence of the poor and the rich or how something else makes the city absolutely unique.
A skilled editor could have guided his hand here. S/he could have told him to carve the excesses off to keep the reader’s attention. It’s the old ‘show don’t tell’ advice. He adheres to it mostly by letting his own affection for the ‘Mumbaikers’ be apparent through Gaikwad and Jay, but then sometimes he forgets.
The editor could (or SHOULD have) deleted the usage of multiple paragraphs to describe the same things. It ruined the effect in a few places. And then there were sentences like –
‘Gaikwad knew that incriminating questions would be asked about the police.’ Or – ‘Time didn’t heal his actions.’
These sentences made me stumble. The word ‘incriminating’ didn’t belong there and time doesn’t heal actions, it heals the hurt from his actions, dammit.
And then this one – ‘Gaikwad sat – half-stood – at the edge of his table.’
He could have ‘perched’ at the edge of the table or ‘parked his
damned behind.’ But no!
I think K.D. Calamur shows a lot of potential. Every one of his characters had distinct personalities and behaviours and I didn’t find any of them stereotypical. If he wanted to write a series with Vijay Gaikwad and Jay Ganesh, then I would definitely want to read the next book. He’s made me quite fond of these two men and as his writing matures so will his stories, I’m sure of that.
DISCLAIMER: I got my copy from netgalley.