Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The Reluctant Detective by Kiran Manral

The Reluctant Detective has an interesting premise: pairing a bored thirty-something housewife with two murders in a suburban neighbourhood. Kanan Mehra, also known as Kay, was the last person to see Sheetal Jaiswal alive before she was brutally murdered in the midst of her morning jog. As was she with Rohit Sharma, whose body was once again discovered by Kay and her husband. Against her will, Kay finds herself intrigued by the mystery of the murders. With the help of her detective friend, Runa, she half heartedly (and the emphasis is on half-hearted) sets out to find the murderers while simultaneously making sure her kid, 'the brat' gets enough to eat and she is regular to his parent-teacher meetings.

As you can see, The Reluctant Detective seems like a quirky formulaic whodunnit with just enough personality to make it stand out! I wanted to fall in love with this book so badly. But, it kills me to say but, this book just wasn't amazing enough. It was breezy, sure. It had its moments of fun. I do not regret picking it up. But it could've toned down on the frivolousness and had more action; more twists and puzzle pieces in the mystery.

I'm going to go ahead and dissect the cover, characters, plot and writing separately.

cover

I've seen way too many stiletto covers in the past two years. Especially when it comes to Lauren Weisberger's books. Still, a huge stiletto in the cover screams chic lit which is great! That, along with the drop of blood under the heel represents the book perfectly!

characters

The characters were engaging enough! The main character, Kanan Mehra or Kay, did not make a good first impression. I was ready to hate her. There are a lot of people in real life like her who you have to learn to love. Just like I did eventually start liking Kay despite and in a way because of her little quirks.

'The spouse' and 'the brat' were even more fun to read about than Kay herself! Kay's husband, despite not possessing a single romantic bone in his body is loyal and caring. That was enough to move me! Kabir or 'the brat', as Kay lovingly refers to her son, won me over instantly with his disdain for certain things and his cute way of saying things! Go Kabir!

plot

The Reluctant Detective's tagline reads: 'how a housewife became a murder investigator between being a school-gate mom and her ladies lunches.' I'm sorry but murder investigator? Really? There were more of the ladies lunches and birthday parties (which were fun to read about! And I discovered so much more about Kay in the process) and less than fifty pages of actual detecting. Kay doesn't even start with the investigation till the second half of the book. Even then, her friend, Runa, is the one who gets started with the work.

There were a lot of fillers and the resolution of the mystery was a bit too simple. It was more chic lit than a murder mystery.

the writing

I love Kiran Manral's writing, especially towards the end. In the beginning, I couldn't stand it as the author made the main character digress a zillion times. Which was not very wise in terms of plot or scene progression. But by the second half, there was less frivolousness and fixation with what exactly the fat cells in Kay's body were up to when she devoured fried food. Instead, other than lengthy ramblings, there were more astute observations and fun dialogue. If only this had been the case throughout!

As you can see, the 'reluctant' in The Reluctant Detective was a bit of an understatement. The murder mystery plot barely picked up over the course of the story and I didn't care for how it was resolved. The narration lacked crispness in the beginning though it picked up and was filled with funny and fresh observations towards the end. One thing I can say for sure is that the author has a lot of potential. If The Reluctant Detective had only been chic lit and did not have the whodunnit element, maybe I would've liked its approach more. But since it wasn't and it didn't have that great a resolution, overall it was not-so-great.

You can read The Reluctant Detective at least once for the funny one-liners and relatable observations this book is filled with. Just lower your expectations and you are sure to be entertained by the true-to-life characters and situations! If the blurb at the back sounds fun enough, I will probably pick up Kiran Manral's next novel when it's out, hoping it contains more of what I liked about The Reluctant Detective.

read it or skip it?

SKIP IT if you're looking for a hardcore whodunnit, prefer crisp story telling and cannot tolerate the main character digressing every two seconds.

READ IT if you're looking for a light read with true-to-life characters and lines that make you smile knowingly and occasionally burst out laughing.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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3 comments:

  1. Great review Pooja! I loved your breakdown. I agree the cover is way fun. I too jave difficulties with these cozy mystery books. While they are frivilous and fun they stretch reality a bit. Thanks for the honest, analhtical breakdown!

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  2. The stiletto book covers have been done to death. It feels like the publishers have a specific formula chic lit = stiletto!

    I love your reviews. They are honest and have a pleasant pattern. For a young girl there's just so much order in your posts! Good luck! :)

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  3. @Heidi Thank you so much, Heidi! Yeah, those sub genres either work or don't work together. It's a fine balance!

    @Zarine Ah I know, so many stiletto covers! I've lost count of the number of stiletto covers I've seen! And thank you so much for stopping by my blog, Zarine! I'm so glad you like my reviews :)

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HI. Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment. :)