Book Review: City of Death

City of Death by Abheek Barua is the book that marks it

I am making a comeback to solicited book reviews and City of Death by Abheek Barua is the book that marks it. A review copy accepted after long and was it worth it or not? Lets find out.

City of Death is primarily the story of a serial killer who is trying to perfect his act of slaughter. It is also the story of an investigator who is trying to hang on to the thin string of professional lifeline that she has been dished out. A young woman from a well-connected family is brutally murdered and Sohini Sen, the pill popping, alcoholic ex-crime branch investigator is brought back from the wasteland of police bureaucracy to investigate. What follows is a circus. The murder is being politicised, the media wants a name and a section of media is even questioning Shohini’s credentials to investigate such a high profile murder.

Amidst all this, Shohini and her team make slow but steady progress. But the political machinery has no time for patience. Everyone needs a name, a face to that name. And the holy grail of murder – motive to the act. A sacrificial goat at the altar of justice. As the demands of this machinery are met, the case is closed to the satisfaction of all except justice. As the investigator broods yet moves on, the killer strikes again. For the police it is another open and shut case but the forensic begs to differ. The similarities in the modus operandi are pointed out and this time the investigator has something interesting. A common link…

Barua makes his mark as a storyteller to watch out for with this tale. Beyond a crime thriller, City of Death is the tale of people. Barua’s characters are grey and real. There are no unscathed humans in the story. There is no right and wrong side. The chaser, the chased and the assemble cast everyone has skeletons in their cupboards and throughout the tale they keep tumbling out. A noticeable thing is the narration is never has the author mentioned the name of the city in the entire book. The peripheral places yes but never has Kolkata being mentioned. For a while, to start with it is unsettling to not know where the story is being played out but it gets your grey cells running and the narration doe not allow it to stop till the last page.

It is a tightly spun tale and keeps you guessing, though to be honest I had an inkling of the identity of the murderer as soon as he was described after the first killing (but you can attribute it to a decade of being in hospitals). Though it was just an inkling and I started doubting it over time. Barua keeps it real and does not offer the reader the pseudo-satisfaction of a reason for a serial killer. A deranged mind cannot have a single reason and the author keeps it like that. Just like an investigator on the trail of a serial killer, the reader too in the end faces the frustration of not deducing a clear motive for the acts. The author has left it open to his readers after giving an insight into the mind of the killer through out the book.

The only thing that did not work for me is the constant use of present continuous tense while the story was being narrated in third person. If it was deliberate by the editor, it kind of ebbed the flow of the story for me because every time this happened, I re-read the line. Brownie points for the cover art, it shows the bare neck and back of a woman which is an insight into the core of the story.

An insightful account into the darkness of human mind and how frailly balanced are each one of us as we navigate the maze of life. A story of human desires, manipulations and the burnt human minds go through. And the monsters we are capable of becoming.

Abheek Barua impresses on his debut. A voice to watch out for.

Title: City of Death
Publisher/ ImprintJuggernaut Books
Pages: 263
Genre/ Sub-Genre: Fiction/Crime Thriller
Rating: 3.75 of 5.00
Reviewed for: Publisher

Read the reviews of other books rated 3 stars by Team TP HERE

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