Sunday, 11 August 2019

Book Review: A Closetful of Skeletons by Tanushree Podder



Book: A Closetful of Skeletons

Author: Tanushree Podder

Pages: 296

Read on: Kindle

Read in: 3-4 hours

Plot Summary: Ramola withdrew from the public eye at the peak of her stardom, choosing a life of quiet anonymity over the glamour of the silver screen. Surrounded by retired couples spending their twilight years gardening and gossiping, Ramola s life is idyllic.

Or at least it was, till the night of her birthday party, when she announces that her tell-all memoir will soon be published. The book, documenting her rise to fame, puts each of her ex-lovers careers in jeopardy. As each desperate man tries to save himself, Ramola is drawn back into the very web of lies and deception she d left behind. 

And by the time the party is over, Ramola s neighbour, retired army officer and amateur sleuth Colonel Arjun H. Acharya has found his first murder to solve.

Things I Liked:

1. The premise and setting of this story was very interesting. A tiny hill station, a successful actress, who'd suddenly become a recluse, the calling of men from her past to attend her birthday party.. and in the midst of all of that the revelation that she'd written a tell-all book.. and, of course, murder! What is not to like? 

2. The book had a great mix of characters- the visitors from Ramola's past as well as the local junta. Each character was well crafted and you felt like you got to know a little about everyone, which is always a good thing to have in books of this genre. The four friends from Ramsar- the Colonel (our amateur detective in this book), the doctor, the professor and the judge, the local ASP, Tim Thapa, and the other colourful local characters are very likeable. The Mumbai lot or the men from Ramola's past are also very interesting. Each of them has something to lose if her memoir is published and the author goes into the perfect amount of details about each of them. 

3. The small town setting is very spot on. The author has done a great job of capturing the local flavour and rhythm of hill station life- from the quirky, gossip-loving chai wala, to the local petty thief, to drunkard gardeners, fixed walking routines.. the depiction of hill life is idyllic and lovely! Also, the sense of unease amongst the locals due to the murder is done well, given this was the first ever murder to have happened in this little community. 

4. The red herrings are multiple and each of them is pretty solid. Almost everyone under Ramola's roof had a motive to want her dead. Always nice to have solid red herrings in a murder mystery! 

5. Retired Colonel Acharya, our sleuth, is a nice, warm, calm and level-headed avuncular figure. It is so refreshing to not have a cocky, arrogant or pained, angst-ridden detective!!! Acharya is always calm, always pleasant while he steadfastly chips away at the investigation. There are no grand flourishes and everything he does is systematic and through observation. 

6. Ramola's character has a lot of masala- as one would, typically, expect from a Bollywood star! She's had such a dramatic life and seen so many ups and downs, yet there is something so vulnerable and hopeful and human about her. She may have done things you and I wouldn't do, but she was also someone who'd, finally, found some peace after a long life of turmoil. As a victim, she evokes the readers' empathy. 

Things I Didn't Like:

1. My sister and I immediately guessed the killer the very first time the character made an entry! I mean, come on! It was so obvious! I wish this had not been the case, but it did reduce the suspense quotient of the book for us. 

2. The book could've definitely benefitted from some sharper editing, especially, cutting down on repetition in its last 40%! We'd already read once about Ramona's relationships with each of the Bombay men, it was not necessary to have all that info repeated with just 1-2 new details later in the book! Furthermore, the two sleuths- Tim and Acharya- went on to have detailed conversations and discussions about these same facts! This kind of repetition was just not needed, especially, since other interesting events were happening in the story! 

Rating: 4/5 
 

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