Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Book Review- Penumbra by Bhaskar Chattopadhyay

Intelligence of Sherlock Holmes and deliberation of Byomkesh Bakshi come together in one character of Penumbra. Many a murder mysteries start on a high note but lose rhythm as they progress. Either the story becomes too predictable or has so many twists that one loses track of original plot. But not Penumbra. Bhaskar Chattopadhyay clearly knows how to balance. After reading Patang (read the review here), I was impatiently waiting for his next book. While Patang’s protagonist was professional and experienced, the character in Penumbra derives his acumen from chess. Superb story, absolutely flawless and gripping writing style and unpredictable climax, is what takes Penumbra beyond awesome by many leaps and bounds.
The story is narrated by Prakash Ray who is a twenty something lad living a sombre life all by himself in Kolkata. He receives a letter and an invitation to attend a birthday party by an unknown person who claims to be his uncle. The visit promises an incentive for Prakash, a letter written by her mother who died while giving birth to Prakash. And he lands up in a god-forsaken place on the said weekend. Just when Prakash was thanking his stars for bringing him into the company of some good-natured people and extended family in a beautiful mansion in the countryside, his senses are shaken awake by a double murder in that very house. With no civilization for miles altogether and a crazy storm outside, it was pretty clear that the murderer was within the house and probably someone amongst the people gathered for the party. What follows is a totally insane and unpredictable series of events where everybody’s intentions and capabilities are questioned. The garb of sophistication is torn apart as lies and pretentions are exposed.

Unputdownable (I finished this in one go), gripping, thrilling and intelligent-Penumbra is all this and much more. It gives you a feel of those classics aired during the black and white era of television. It is a must read for the fans of Sherlock Holmes, Byomkesh Bakshi and Karamchand. What distinguishes these classics from Sydney Sheldon or Agatha Christie is that while reading the latter, the reader is just a bystander who just watches as the mystery unfold while the former slowly engulf you into the story and the reader, at least once, tries to think and solve the mystery. Penumbra will also urge the detective in you to come alive and unravel this mystery. But the ending will leave you completely stunned. After Patang and Penumbra, I am certainly looking forward for Bhaskar Chattopadhyay’s next book. When will that be Mr. Author?

My Rating:

About the Author: Bhaskar Chattopadhyay is a writer and translator. Bhaskar's novels include 'Penumbra' (Fingerprint 2016) and 'Patang' (Hachette 2016). His translations include '14: Stories That Inspired Satyajit Ray' (Harper 2014), 'Shiva' (Penguin 2016), 'The House By The Lake' (Scholastic 2014), '12 Stories by Hasan Azizul Huq' (Bengal Light Books 2015) and 'No Child's Play' (Harper 2013). Bhaskar lives and works in Bangalore, India.

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