A murder, a string of suspects and an unlikely detective trying to solve the jigsaw puzzle by putting together the right ‘motive, means and opportunity’ for each suspect; the plot is not new but the way debutant novelist Sharath Komarraju has dealt with it, makes Murder in Amaravati a pleasure to read. It’s that kind of novel that you pick up and finish in one go, thanks to its short length and lucid language.
The victim in the story is Padmavati, the village hostess, or prostitute if you would like to say, of Amaravati village in Andhra Pradesh. Her body is found in the locked temple of Kali, situated next to the old banyan tree, in the center of the village. Venkat Reddy, the head constable, who would have otherwise dismissed the case as a suicide, takes upon himself to get justice for the innocent looking deceased.
As he investigates, many skeletons come tumbling out of the cupboard and the list of suspects keeps increasing, frustrating Reddy and absorbing the reader further.
The priest, Krishna Shastri, the only one with a key to the temple; the village headman, Seetaraamaiah; his son, Kishore; the village postman, Satyam; his wife, Lakshmi; and the wheel-chaired Shekhar along with his wife Vaishnavi, who recently shifted to the village; are all the witnesses and suspects in the case.
Though it is a suspense thriller, Sharath has left no stone unturned to give it an aesthetic value too. The life in village of Amaravati is described in detail, so have been all the characters. The comparison might seem too flattering, but in parts the story gives a ‘Malgudi Days’ feel.
Once the reader knows about all the characters and their lives; they can empathise with them, and their respective motives become clearer; only to be falsified by subsequent revelations.
However, in certain instances, the detailed characterisation also backfires. While the reader knows that a certain person cannot be the culprit due to the details already provided, Reddy is still shown groping in the dark. Such a narrative steals a certain element of surprise, especially in the case of one of the central character.
Nonetheless, the author needs to be commended for making sure that no loose ends are left as each aspect is explained in detail during the climax. Moreover, the twists and turns ensure that the reader keeps second-guessing throughout the novel. However, Sharath has succeeded in staying a step ahead of the readers.
Though I got my copy for free, the novel has been priced tad too high for its genre. There is no doubt that the novel is leagues ahead of the novels being churned out by the wannabe Chetan Bhagats, however, its price of Rs. 250 will only make it more unlikely for the readers to try it out. It will be a pity if readers miss out on this promising debut attempt of Sharath because of this sole reason.
Update: Sharath has been kind enough to provide the first two chapters of the novel free for download. I hope this review and these chapters make your decision easier. Happy Reading!!!