Book Review: The Sad Demise of Manpreet Singh
I really love reading books where foreign authors ramble on India or stories with an Indian backdrop. It is not their story or ideas that attract me but rather their perspectives on the Indian culture and how they entwine them with their characters. Its also the curiosity that I develop to see if they have got their facts right, judgmental that I can be given that I am an insider here. This book is another good book that accurately talks about life in India, besides the plot, I mean.
Dominic Biscuit McLeod is an expert in making the best out of a bad situation. As a visa fraud investigator at the Australian High Commission, New Delhi, Biscuit is legendary for his prowess in drinking beer, playing cricket, and swearing like a Dilliwallah, until the tragic death of a junior colleague forces him to become something else – a conspiracy theorist who can’t let go. Armed with only a hangover, a loathing for authority, and an inability to believe the lies that he is being told, Biscuit stumbles from crisis to catastrophe in a shambolic search for the truth. From the villages of Punjab to the cricket fields of Delhi, and the walled compounds of Gurgaon and Chanakyapuri, with dodgy visa agents, crooked cops, Aussies journalists, Afghani pimps and American spies for company, Biscuit never looks like solving the case, or leaving the party early.
A bold comic debut, The Sad Demise of Manpreet Singh is a novel about the things people will do to leave the places they don’t want to be, and the lengths others will go to try and stop them.
Dominic Biscuit McLeod is a likeable character. With a chilled out attitude and an inquisitive mind, he makes a good protagonist for a novel like this. He is funny, smart, easy-going and laid back. The story has a very realistic feel to it in a way that it is not just a hypothesized but a real life situation. This is because the author has developed his plot in such an environment and filled it with life like characters. The unbelievable ease with with the Australian author laces the plot with Indian-ness like love for cricket, dilliwallah hindi, the common dialect of Hinglish etc. is applaudable. He manages to get the Indianness just right enough to make you take a liking to his writing style and dialogue flow. Also, I like the way the crime fiction writers are now deviating from the typical suede coat, pipe smoking, aged and haughty crime detectives. Dom is more of a common man who gets whacked by the bad guys and doesn’t fight back, needs to grudgingly give-in to the powerplay of his seniors, addicted to his drinks and has successfully transitioned into a typical Indian youngster.
But one can’t just get around a crime story with too much of whiff-whaffs and non-commital narratives and this was the annoying part of the book. The investigation drags with unnecessary turnings of events, lots of new characters are introduced mid-way and individual stories are rather bland. This, I felt, was the only drawback of what could have otherwise been a very good read.
Do pick this book up if you are looking for quick, weekend read!
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