The Himalayas and their foothills incite the feeling of calmness, purity of the air, and the ambiance of serenity in the mind of anyone who hears and reads about it. A perfect retreat for a retired police officer to build a cocoon of silence away from the hullabaloo of crimes. A twin murder in the ambiance os sure to unhinge the officer as he is hooked to the investigation through the feeling of commitment, the promise of friendship, or something unfathomable. As much as the plot excites the readers, Death in Shambles elevates the intrigue of the readers with sheer brilliance in the craft of Stephen Alter.
Death in Shambles by Stephen Alter – Book Review
Lionel Carmichael retreated to the peaceful hill station Debrakot. He comes back to Debrakot which was his safe abode after a tumultuous affair in Lucknow, forty-five years ago. He is a retired police officer with an effervescent career, who has been suspended in the last year of service to bring his happening career to an ignominious end. Howsoever he is revered for the word even after retirement, and when a twin murder shakes the otherwise stagnant life of the motley inhabitants of Debrakot, Lionel is called for.
The scene of the crime is Shambala Villa, commonly called Shambles for its current ramshackle start, inhabited illegally by Reuben, one of the victims. The dilapidated building is a sad reminder of its majestic past. With a gory past of Reuben’s religious cult, the place has been a pandoras box of dark secrets. While Lionels steps out to investigate the murders, the unprecedented and unexpected awaits him. The plot takes of from the spot and the readers linger on till the climax.
What blurb says
Lionel Carmichael, a retired police deputy inspector general, is looking forward to living a quiet, solitary life in the hill station of Debrakot, with an assortment of eccentric neighbors for occasional company. His plans are upended when he is asked by a former colleague, SHO Thapliyal, to help out in a double murder case. The scene of the crime is the ghostly Shambala Villa, or ‘Shambles’, as it is known to the residents of the town, named thus due to its decrepit appearance. The victims of the brutal crimes are Reuben Sabharwal, a self-styled god-man who dabbles in the mysterious and occult, and an unknown woman, dressed in a pale green sari, found hanging by a noose near Reuben’s body.
Trudging through the monsoon rains of Debrakot, Lionel embarks on his journey towards the truth, only to become more and more entangled in a web of deceit and lies. Even as myriad of powerful forces attempt to stop him, Lionel continues to push for the truth—until the sleepy little hill station finally gives up its grim secrets.
The motley characters of the book elevate and dip the pace of the plot. Be it Stephen, his cook Badlu, or anyone in Debrakot, each character has a craft of its own with a distinct individuality and a space. The moment the author introduces the readers to a character, they would embark on a journey of visualization and further, the way the character behaves makes sense and seems convincing. The characters lead the plot.
However, the edge of body shaming trait displayed by the protagonist stuck out like a sore thumb. A different angle cold has been explored to establish the distinction between the characters. The same could be done despite taking off the paragraphs where in body image of the other characters was made fun of.
The plot that flies
The most engaging quality of a thriller is to have a pace that sustains despite the difficulty in establishing the scenarios. Death in Shambles seamlessly maneuvered the plot toward the climax. Till the end, there is not a scenario where the readers would want to skip a page or paragraph for that matter.
The climax did not rise up to the benchmark set by the rest of the plot. It leaves the readers wondering why the author was unduly diverting the attention of the readers. This could have been explored in detail with more developmental edits.
Overall the book is a breezy read for all thriller lovers.
The review was written as a part of BlogchatterA2Z