Book Review : One Arranged Murder
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I believe the best way to understand the diversity of Indian readers is to scroll through reviews of a Chetan Bhagat book. From one star to five, you will get diehard fan to critics like me. There is no doubt that a substantial number of readers love to read his books and give hope to Publishing business in India. It is indeed instrumental in competing for screen time and getting the Indian youth to read ! This has catapulted him into the best seller stature for over a decade now. Although I believe it is much more about his other skills and resources than writing per se. For example his columns, political and social commentary on TV, knowing how to jump into a controversy at the right time and creating an intelligent PR story out of it. He definitely has the perfect playbook for popularity.
I personally have read a couple of his books and found two of his initial ones – “Two States” and “Five Point Someone” really great. Well that was perhaps more than 10 years ago and I definitely have grown as a reader and I expect the author also to grow with time. Unfortunately, with this particular book – “One Arranged Murder”, I was disappointed.
So, what is the story about?
Without giving away too much, this is a story of friendship, love and family. Keshav and Saurabh the two aspiring detectives, solving the murder case of Prerna who falls from her roof top. Prerna was supposed to get married to Saurabh very soon, so there is a big Punjabi family looking to enjoy the big fat wedding celebration is now under the scanner for a possible murder case.
From Love story and Drama to Thrillers
No risk, no gain. Lot of people believe in this philosophy, especially in creative field risk taking is encouraged. So when one of India’s most ‘visible’ (I use the word intentionally as opposed to popular) decides to break out of his comfort zone and attempts to write thrillers, I was curious. Although I did not read the previous book, which was also a thriller and has same key characters – Keshav and Saurabh being carried forward. So I was reading this book with an open mind.
So, let us get to some writing basics
In fiction writing, two things are most important – Character and Plot development. I usually call it the heart and brain of a writer, the emotional and the logical element of the story. So if I were to look at the plot of this book, it is good, has its fair share of twists and turns to hold a reader. I just wanted to finish the book is less than 3 sittings. But when it comes to the overall literary experience and the emotional quotient of the story and especially the characters. This book lost me completely. After a point the characters just did not appeal to me. I found them hollow, simply trying to carry the burden of the plot forward. The conflicts that the character go through, their dilemma and hence the decision they take and the backstories to support it, just did not work for me.
Apart from characterization, the language or the writing style just did not work for me. I totally understand the readers (including me) and the author having ‘Hindi’ as their first or the dominant language to express emotions and ideas. To be fair even the characters are set in Northern India and are not expected to speak English as their natural language. But I still believe there is a flow and flair of English language that needs to be preserved. Which basically separates the story (which author writes) and the dialogues (that the characters speak). This book is filled with direct translations of Hindi sentences – not dialogues, but author’s voice which simply kills my reading experience. I don’t mind insertions of Hindi sentences but a direct translation of them in English without any finishing touches somehow puts me off. I could be the only reader feeling this, but having read great translated works and even works of other Indian writers, I feel this aspect in CB’s writing can be handled. Unless this is really intentional.
- Try reading other books by Indian authors to learn the nuances of writing style. From what I have read, I would recommend Chitra Divakurni, Jhumpa Lahiri, Ashwin Sanghvi just for their writing style that very well brings out the Indian ness of the characters and story, yet offering a great reading experience as far as the language is concerned.
- Also if you want to enjoy good thrillers, there are a lot of international bestsellers ; Gone Girl, Girl with dragon tattoo and books by Paula Hawkins literally blew my mind off with intelligent plots and compelling character building.
- Finally, give this book a skip if you have read some of the initial works of this author and have loved them, trust me his TV appearances and interviews will entertain you more than this book.
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