Varun Gwalani
Saga Fiction
April 14, 2022
Final Verdict

About the Author

Varun Gwalani is an 18-year-old resident of Mumbai, studying Arts at Jai Hind College. He s been an avid reader all his life. Some of his favourite authors include Paulo Coelho, J.K. Rowling, George Orwell, and O. Henry. Varun has always dreamed of being an author with the ability to tell a story that will fascinate and engage the reader. Over a period of three years, he has written a collection of over fifty short stories. This is his first published work. For feedback and queries, you may connect with Varun at
Other Works By Varun Gwalani
The First Storyteller
How does your story end?
The Story Circle
Believe: 1
The Novel Year
Who Saves the Hero?
Why do you Hate?

The Only Way Out Is Death by Varun Gwalani-Thriller or Post-pandemic fiction?

Akankshya Abismruta reviews Varun Gwalani’s The Only Way Out is Death (Saga Fiction, 2022).

Locked-room thriller immediately reminds me of And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. While Christie used the titular poem to craft the murders in her book, Varun Gwalani uses the pandemic and the following lockdown to build the context of his murder mystery. Twelve influential people from different fields of work gather for a conference, only to meet with a blast. Their lives take a turn for the worst, and they find themselves locked in a hotel with blacked-out windows without any sense of place and time, being manipulated by a big brother-like mastermind. 

Varun Gwalani-The Plotter

The characters are from across the world considering the first names they share, from Anders to Ashwini, from Kiriaki to Shraddha, and so on and so forth. They are politicians, doctors, psychiatrists, lawyers, followers of a spiritual Guru, etc. The only thing that seems to bind them is that they committed sins during the pandemic. Sins are an exemplification of the dark side of each profession. And the only way they get out of this dystopic place is either by killing somebody or dying by suicide. 

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The narration of the thriller is done in first person by a young lawyer named Kiriaki who quickly takes on the role of a detective as the murders begin. The courtroom-like scenario after each murder becomes a bit repetitive putting the reader at an edge to get to the end. The desperation of the characters, the despair, fear, and to an extent, ruthlessness are brought to the surface beautifully. All the characters have their own quirks, how they carry themselves, and how they choose to interact, which inadvertently makes them memorable. 

Varun Gwalani-The Writer

The thriller becomes a commentary on how powerful people abused the marginalized and the less privileged during the pandemic. It talks about conspiracy theories, violation of patents in providing vaccines, choosing to treat the rich in order to bring finances to treat the underprivileged, the moral dilemma of saving one life over another, and amidst this a shadow organization trying to bring justice in ways it finds fit. 

Varun Gwalani’s writing was able to capture my attention but the repeated courtroom-like scenes had me rolling my eyes because it was almost always predictable — if not the events, then the actions of the characters. There is a rapid turn of events in the end, there is too much action in too little time. The sudden revelation of a character hiding her sexuality to protect her life is completely unconvincing, and so is the love letter that the author leaves us with. 

The goriness of the plot is based on the darker side of the world wide web—a secret organization trying to take down the people in power. Yet the demonic figure of the antagonist fails to create the horror that it’s supposed to. The characterization is compelling, but the intention behind the actions, the change of heart, the action sequence, the sacrifice, and the survival required a little more convincing for me.

Varun Gwalani-The Author

The Only Way Out Is Death by Varun Gwalani is as much a post-pandemic fiction as it is a thriller, occasionally so shocking and almost always bloody.

Have you read this post-pandemic fiction? What do you think of it? Drop a comment below and let us know!

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Akankshya Abismruta

Akankshya Abismruta

Akankshya Abismruta is a writer and an independent scholar. She's published articles, a short story, and an academic paper so far. Studying English Literature created a void in her heart that led her to Indian Literature and translations. She's curious about almost everything to the point that she's exhausted all the time.

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