Book Review: Compass Box Killer

Part of South Asian Challenge 2013.


Certain things when they associate with certain places hold a very different level of excitement. Crime and Mumbai have a similar association. Blame it on the reputation of the city or hindi cinema but the association runs deep and the proposition always excites. Last year when filmmaker Piyush Jha decided to move his mode of story telling from celluloid to pulp he took it upon himself to explore the fascinating yet rarely explored genre ( in India) of crime thriller. And choose his favourite muse Mumbai as the canvas. Mumbai and crime – the stage was set and was born his debut book Mumbaistan. A 4-novella anthology with crime, Mumbai and women as a common thread. In 2013, he has now improvised from novellas to novel.

He picked the protagonist of one of Mumbaistan’s novella’s – inspector Virkar from Injectionwala and put him against an intelligent, conniving, purpose driven murderer. Add to that a dose of an ambitious, glamorous media woman and Piyush has all the ingredients of a thrilling word journey in place.

Compass Box Killer, Piyush’s second offering, has a very exciting start with a policeman’s mysterious murder-looking-like-food poisoning right in the police station which is famous for housing the most efficient men of the Mumbai police force. A murder that would have been labelled food poisoning if not for inspector Virkar’s discovery of an old metal compass box with a note – Akurle is just the first to die. To find out who is next, find me first. The murderer dares the Mumbai police to catch up with him if they can by declaring the name of the next intended victim but the system proves weaker and the carnage continues. The murderer is driving inspector Virkar to his wits ends while the most potent civilian weapon of our times for the righteous as well as the wrong doers – media led by the glamorous and ruthlessly ambitious Raashi ‘hunterwali’ Hunerwal are hounding him. Dead bodies are mounting and Virkar’s not so polished handling of the media is only hightening the risk of the case being transferred out of his hands. With a daring and intelligent killer, a sexy but ambitious crime reporter and a mysterious victim on his platter Virkar is not sure who is hunting and who is being hunted.

One word verdict: un-put-downable.

The story has twists at the right junctions, intrigue in the right amount broken into the right  particles and the very right kind of pace. What the narration lacks is the emotional connect. Though emotions are never too much a requisite of a thriller but when the motive is emotional the connect assumes an indespensible role. That part of the story required more exploration. This time around the Hindi usage was much entertaining and the metaphors unique Virkar style. But a certain Marathi usage at the start can confuse many a readers with it being a name and not a relationship resulting in you thinking how does he know her name? Atleast that is what it did to me initially.

Empathy angle with the killer not withstanding it is every bit a thriller with pace, suspense, a gory past and an uncertain future. Right ingredients. Right mix. Palate as well as hunger appetising. If you know what I mean. A masala-tadka demanding to be read right away. A recommended read for all thriller enthusiasts.

Happy Reading.

Thank you for the copy Piyush!

Watch the Words:

Title: Compass Box Killer
Author: Piyush Jha
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Pages: 240
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4.25 of 5
Reviewed for: Author

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