Rhea Gangavkar reviews Devi: The Mystery of the Kolkata Murders by Prasun Roy (Published by Rupa Publications, 2023)
In the vibrant backdrop of Kolkata’s Durga Puja, a gripping tale unfolds as fugitive Durgacharan Mahesh’s extradition casts a shadow over the festivities. The city is plunged into chaos when his brother-in-law is found murdered, sparking a series of mysterious crimes during each day of the celebration.
As the police commissioner and his team race against time to solve the puzzle, the killer, undeterred, lurks in the shadows. Secrets unravel, clues multiply, and the mystery escalates amidst the joyous chaos of Navami and Dashami.
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Narrative and Storytelling
Devi: The Mystery of the Kolkata Murders by Prasun Roy follows Arun, a disgraced cop, Savitri, a journalist on the quest for the truth, Jai, a copy, and Arun’s buddy as the three try to solve the mystery of ‘Devi’ and why it’s linked to the murders happening in the city right before Durga Puja.
The opening is visual, but the images are static. They stop abruptly and their only purpose is to set the scene. The plot then moves to the solving of the case, in which we see the dynamic unfold between the three protagonists.
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This is a fast-paced story, right from start to finish. It was interesting how the chapters were structured—one for each day of Durga Puja. Each chapter has an interesting mix-a short explanation about the day of the puja, yet another murder, a cryptic call/message, and yet another twist to the tale, blended in with background stories.
However, what I think this story needs is atmosphere, which is missing. Even if there are no unnecessary descriptions of either place settings or people and only what is relevant and important to the story, it makes it feel constricted.
Prasun Roy’s Writing and Dialogues
One thing that struck me the most was how the dialogue was structured to give more details about the characters, which I did not like. I think that details and characteristics should unfold as organically as possible and the way they unfold in the book makes it seem like they’re purposefully put there to give the reader some information. Another thing that the dialogue does is fall flat and doesn’t distinguish from character to character.
Overall, I think that the story could have been a little slower and have the fluff cut out a little bit more to really get to the centre of it all. It’s an interesting premise that could have been explored with a little more character for the setting and the unhurried murders.
Have you read this quirky murder mystery set in Kolkata? What do you think of it? Drop a comment below and let us know!