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To commit a crime is never easy, they say. You always get caught. Writing a crime thriller is also a tough proposition. Crime fiction in regional languages always had the junta and a train journey passengers reading it for decades. But for ages, I have trying hard to really like some of the English crime fiction in India but invariably have picked up a novel from a non-Indian author. Not done, eh!
Piyush Jha had made an attempt last year with his debut crime thriller Mumbaistan which was successful in keeping us hooked. He is back with Compass Box Killer. Part of his Mumbaistan series, it is an inspector Virkar crime thriller. Having loved Mumbaistan‘s stories and pace, I was gung-ho to read this latest offering by Jha.
The saga starts with the murder of Inspector Akurle in his office while eating a vada pav. In comes our hero Inspector Virkar from the Mumbai Crime Branch who pursues the case via a humble compass box.
A sensational serial killer on the loose, Virkar has to solve the case with bare minimum clues, avoid some jealous colleagues, and is utterly lost as to why some unrelated people are being killed. The killer is always one step ahead and kills the victims right under Virkar’s nose. Literally! Virkar also has to deal with the seductive and ambitious TV reporter Raashi Hunerwal. Attraction was not a part of the deal. But soon enough, the duo travel between Mumbai, Khandala and Belgaum to unravel a mystery which will shock them and the readers.
There are thick books to beat someone with and there are paper thin ones to fan oneself. Compass Box Killer is the compact kind. It is just fit for travelling around with and finishing in one go. Best of all, it gives you enough fodder to use your imagination and create the scenes before your eyes. From the very first scene where the killer gets his first prey, Jha keeps the fast pace intact.
Language is what matters in any story – of whether it fits in the genre. Jha makes sure the language is simple and has the necessary ingredients to keep you hooked. You might find Marathi sentences in between but thankfully minimum, probably to avoid alienating the pan-India reader. The character sketches seem good enough for the kind of book it is. You are able to understand why each character behaves the way she/he does in the book. Virkar’s dilemma of balancing work and emotions, his obsession with Godfather beer and Prawns Koliwada and so on somehow makes him more than just a cop.
For those of you looking for a complete paisa vasool book to beat the blues on a boring/rainy day, I would suggest Compass Box Killer to read. Nothing can beat a crime thriller to spice up your mood.