Thank you Hachette India for sending me a review copy of the third book in the Janardan Maity series, “The Disappearance of Sally Sequeira” by Bhaskar Chattopadhyay.
The plot of the story goes like this:
Detective Janardan Maity and his friend Prakash Ray have travelled to a secluded and pristine holiday spot in Goa, Movim, to celebrate the success of Ray completing his manuscript for a new novel. However, mystery follows them to this remote part of Goa (even though getting a decent phone signal is still elusive).
Mystery? The father of a local teenage girl receives a letter asking for a large sum of money in exchange for his daughter. The plot twist? The girl is sitting safely in her own room in her home. Too weird to be discounted as a mere prank, Maity and Ray begin to investigate this case. They have help from Mrs. Mascarenhas (their host), Mrs. Wendy D’souza (a village elder), Mr. Michael Doherty (another village elder), Father Dias (the reverend at the local church), Professor John Sequeira and his daughter Sally Sequeira (hehehehe, you’ll have to read the book to understand this conundrum), Robert Gomes and his daughter Katheryn Gomes, Peter Pereira (Katheryn’s best friend) and another character (if I reveal the details, it would be a spoiler).
Back to the mystery: why send a ransom note for a girl who’s sitting hale and hearty in her own home? Is there something sinister coming in along with the next storm? What is the significance of the lighthouse situated at the beach? Is everyone who they seem to be? Are the intentions of the characters as sincere as they appear to be?
Will Janardan Maity be able to save the day, and a life or two?
What I liked about this book is the author’s good command over English. (Believe me, I tried to find some silver lining to this novel. I really did. But I also wanted to mark this book as ‘did-not-finish’ somewhere along 50%, so…)
What I didn’t like about the book is.… a lot of things.
The book, though aimed to be a breezy mystery read, seems way off the target. The unnecessary description of rooms Maity enters reduced the pace of the book to a considerable extent. I didn’t quite understand the point of these descriptions. In my humble opinion, mystery books should reveal only as much detail as is necessary to take the story forward to the next level. Lean. Quick. To the point. Of course, if the details are necessary from the point of view of foreshadowing, readers wouldn’t mind reading a line or two more. But unnecessary details don’t add to the mystery: they simply confuse the reader.
Some instances mentioned in the book also seemed off to me. At the risk of coming across as a nitpicker, I would like to point out one (out of many others I noted down in my copy of the book) instance that made me think, “How is this even rationally possible?” There is a scene in the book where Maity and Ray enter a particularly stinky location (won’t reveal which one, because spoilers). The detective is shown to have pressed a handkerchief to his nose, in order to block out the foul odour. Which is a rookie error (any David Baldacci fan would tell you that). I would expect a detective to know the basic concept of how a nose gets desensitized to bad smells by prolonged exposure (of hardly less than a minute, in my experience of travelling around the Mithi river via train/bus).
Like I mentioned earlier, it may seem that I’m being overly critical about a breezy read. But the above instance, and similar instances like these are the precise reason why I couldn’t breeze through this book. And why I couldn’t really care about the characters.
Maybe it’s just me, but I really feel that this book could have been more concise and lean in terms of description, in order to carve out the plot of the story in a more memorable manner. You know, in a ‘show, don’t tell’ way.
Also, the ending of the story didn’t pack a punch in terms of uniqueness, which is a major turn-off for me.
Few other things that irked me while reading the book were the excessive use of adverbs and the reliance on filler words like ‘I see’ and ‘Well’.
I give this book a 2.5 star rating, and recommend it to readers who are willing to overlook the above criticisms and give this book a shot.
Note: This review is my genuine and honest opinion about the book.