Book: Murder In Paharganj
Author: Kulpreet Yadav
Pages: 274 pages
The THRILLER genre has certain unambiguous tropes — a murder, several suspects, a whirlwind of confusion and a menacing killer standing at the heart of the novel. The narrative can be fast-paced or it can trudge along. However, a thriller should ideally tease the mind of the reader long enough to make them want to solve the case rather than wait for the pieces to fall back in place.
Kulpreet Yadav, in his latest thriller Murder In Paharganj, plunges right into action without much ado. A white woman lies dead in a hotel room in Paharganj, New Delhi, and an out-of-work crime journalist happens to arrive at the crime scene before anyone else. The journalist, Vicks Menon, is desperately looking for a story and this sudden death of a white woman in a foreign country without any apparent motive could as well do the trick for him, except things refuse to be this easy. The murder is a part of a much larger political conspiracy, and Menon, battling his own personal demons, realises this as he gets more and more embroiled in it.
Yadav’s novel, clearly, is not a detective fiction, and neither claims to be one. There’s no single character who is supposed to do the thinking for the rest. Instead, all the characters collectively are supposed to think, act, be let down and eventually triumph. It is here that Yadav’s novel falters. What could have been the strength of the novel — its expansive scale and inclusion of the political turmoil between Iran and Iraq — weighs down the narrative. The author packs too many characters and too many incidents, coincidences even, that ultimately cripple the narrative. Menon, who is supposed to take the story forward, never really stands out. He is conflicted and confused, and sometimes even dazed. The characters are not compelling enough and that’s a shame, because the premise Yadav chose does have a lot of potential.
This book is akin to a Bollywood potboiler, though several characters, at different points in the novel, say that it is not. Yadav, like all writers of thrillers, lifts the blindfold of intrigue from the reader’s eyes. But he does that all at once, almost blinding them with all the information. His novel never really teases — but isn’t that what all good thrillers (should) do?