Book: Bhrigu Mahesh, PhD: The Return of Damayanti
Author: Nisha Singh
Publisher: Partridge India (2017)
Paperback: 450 pages
On his second adventure, Bhrigu Mahesh is called to help by a hapless, retired clerk named Nataraj Bhakti, who thinks he is being haunted by the spirit of his dead wife. As he investigates, the mystery deepens and takes a sinister turn. A woman gets brutally murdered, and the great detective faces the challenge to either catch the killer or risk the destruction of many innocent lives.
The Return of Damayanti is the second book in the series featuring the detective, Bhrigu Mahesh, and his friend, Sutte, who is also the narrator of the stories. The detective duo theme is on the same lines as Sherlock-Watson, Poirot-Hastings, and such. However, for all his supercilious airs, I didn’t find Bhrigu very intelligent. His thinking marches on predictable lines and lacks the wow factor, which in turn, diminishes the reader’s ability to emphatise with the naive narrator, Sutte. Nevertheless, the plot is intriguing, and with an added appeal of the Indian setting.
Nataraj Bhakti, a retd. Govt. clerk is haunted by the spirit of his dead wife, Damayanti, and approaches Bhrigu for help. Bhrigu doesn’t believe in ghosts, but sympathises with the plight of the clerk, and decides to get to the root of this haunting problem. This takes them to Krishna Dwar, Bhakti’s village, where they get acquainted with his friends, and relations. A murder in the family follows, and Bhrigu is called in to investigate the murder.
The book starts with an unnecessary prologue, which makes sense only after finishing the entire story. The story is divided into three parts, followed by a short mini-case as a flash file.
The first part is full of back story, and introductions; nothing much happens to take the story forward till the very last page when we hear of the murder. The second part has a better pace, and follows the murder investigation. In the third part, the pace slackens again—it is more of explanations, and less action. I like the mini-case, mainly because it was precise, without any superfluous discussion.
The first chapter begins with a very unoriginal debate on marriage, which runs for about 6-7 pages. It also introduces a Ms. Daisy who has nothing whatsoever to do with the rest of the story. In spite of the slow start, the plot manages to hold attention.
The characters of Manjunath (Bhakti’s best friend), and Savita (Bhakti’s sister) are well-etched. Manjunath isn’t a likeable fellow, but his dialogues, his reactions are believable. Savita is not only likeable, but also, seems like a real human being with her attributes and flaws. The character of Nataraj Bhakti is inconsistent. For e.g. He is supposedly unimaginative, but in one scene he describes a scream he heard in a flowery, and poetic language.
Bhrigu doesn’t seem to have much tolerance towards Sutte; he easily gets irritated with the latter’s suggestions. To be fair to Bhrigu, Sutte does have views more suited to the previous century than today. Sutte lacks the charm necessary to endear him to the reader, though he does have an occasional touch of humour.
The author, Nisha Singh, does have a flair for story telling, however, the writing is full of cliche and generalisations. Excessive use of similes is a distraction. There are many typos, and grammatical errors; many a times ‘there’ is used instead of ‘their’. Ironically, Sutte in one scene corrects misspelled words in the Police report because “how could I control myself when the English language was being thus rebuked?”—his words, not mine. Dialogue is stilted; some part feels like it is literally translated from vernacular to English.
The village, Krishna Dwar, is beautifully described. Be it a dingy lane, or the magnificent temples, the vivid description brings the place to life.
If you are a fan of mystery, then you might like Bhrigu Mahesh, PhD: The Return of Damayanti
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