Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Kolkata Conundrum by Kalyan Lahiri

The Kolkata Conundrum by Kalyan Lahiri

First published in Hong Kong by Crime Wave Press in September 2015.

One of my WorldReads from India

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
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How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'The mysterious and alluring Pramila, resident of Avantika Heights, is brutally murdered. Sudhir Das, the security guard from the Golden Red Security Agency, is caught red-handed. In steps Sudhir's boss, young Orko Deb, the hesitant avenger. His cautious sleuthing, all over Kolkata, throws up more questions than answers. Who is Pramila? Was the National Bank involved in money laundering? Or was it simply a crime passionnel? And who robbed the jeweler's store? Then the media frenzy begins and Golden Red is like a deer in the headlights. The police take charge and Orko lies low. Until he is arrested.

The Kolkata Conundrum differs from many books in its genre by its dignified and elegant tone. The novel has a strong sense of authenticity, perhaps unsurprisingly as Kolkata is Lahiri's home city, and I loved his presentation of the differing locales, especially as viewed through the eyes of first-time visitor, Orko. This young man becomes our amateur sleuth attempting to find out what really happened to one of his employees, the unfortunate Sudhir Das. Orko isn't flashy or a wannabe commando and it is certainly refreshing that he doesn't run around gun-waving all the time. Instead, quiet conversations and a sharp eye for detail lead him slowly to the truth.

In lieu of fast action, Lahiri provides a grounded and far more satisfying - for me anyhow! - exploration of Kolkata and her inhabitants. Scenes such as the ever-increasing hysteria of the news scroller are very funny and I liked the tennis analogy of competitive conversation. We see the colours of everyday life in all its fascinating detail from tea wallahs and cycle rickshaws on the streets to police procedure and eternally televised cricket. Lahiri's characters have genuine lives away from the central mystery. Scenes of a few men chatting over a whisky or three serve to both progress the plot and add greater depth to our cast. The Kolkata Conundrum won't be to everyone's taste and I wouldn't recommend it to action thriller fans, but if you prefer your crime fiction to be thoughtful and rooted in real life, then I think you will be rewarded by this novel.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Kalyan Lahiri / Crime fiction / Books from India

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