Monsoon is generally the season I most associate with books. Earlier, in my childhood, I used to curl up in my nook with Agatha Christie or Arthur C Doyle and be oblivious of the sticky humidity that forbade us to go play outside. Right now, it is the perfect weather in Bangalore to enjoy a good Detective mystery, so I was in fact quite glad to be a part of the Blogadda Book Review Program when they sent me a copy of the latest Indian detective mystery for my perusal. The book under scrutiny today, Bhrigu Mahesh PhD: The Return of Damayanti, is the second instalment in the Detective thriller series Bhrigu Mahesh PhD, authored by Nisha Singh.
It takes two to Tango:
The archetypal detective, as portrayed in the earliest crime fiction literature, is an eccentric, solitary figure camouflaged in the shadows, treading the murky moral swamps of the dark underworld. But there is also a different trajectory to this traditional path – that of the detective duo.
The sleuth and the sidekick have always been an important and integral part of crime fiction history. In literature there has always been that famous pair of detective and his wingman solving an intriguing crime or a series of crimes, relying most of the time only on logical reasoning ; from Sherlock Holmes & Watson to Hercule Poirot & Captain Hastings to our very own Byomkesh Bakshi & Ajit or even Felu da & Topshe the list is endless and fascinating.
The roles and functions of the partner are to primarily humanise the otherwise misanthropic, reclusive protagonist to the readers. But more than that, the detective duo is exciting to read, as it unabashedly indulges our guilty pleasure of being outwitted by the narrator. Usually, in such cases, the chalk and cheese nature of the two different personalities makes them bounce off one another, like two shards of flint, and that is what makes the synergy something exciting to look forward to.
In this respect, Bhrigu Mahesh PhD: The return of Damayanti does not much differ from the norm. Though the characters are different, the structure essentially follows more or less the same pattern – that is, the role of the narrative voice is performed by the reliable accomplice of the detective, who records their adventures in a story and explains the reasoning to the reader, thus bringing the story to its conclusion in a typical whodunnit thriller hunt setting.
The Book – Bhrigu Mahesh PhD: The return of Damayanti
So how different really is Bhrigu Mahesh PhD from other famous sleuths of crime-fiction, say Sherlock Holmes or Byomkesh Bakshi? In my opinion, he falls short of the stature of the invincible sleuth. His reasoning, at best is flawed, and at worst, is merely a pessimistic and chimerical study of “human nature”. There is no eccentricity or spark of genius or even plain old scientific deductions to fall back upon.
His sidekick, Sutte, embarrasses the reader with his point blank naivety. He does his storytelling rather well, though. I haven’t read the first part of the series, which is why I am still a little clueless as to why a young man who loves the material comforts of the world would drop his vocation to pursue a friend in the wilderness, when it seems that once there, he wished he was rather back home. Of course, given that this book is only the second in the series, perhaps the author would consider adding a little background to the base of their weird relationship in each of her book, so it gets easier for the reader to pick up the bits later on. The rest of the characters lack well-rounded aesthetics and come off as rather superficial at times.
The plot of Bhrigu Mahesh PhD: The return of Damayanti, according to my opinion, has been stretched a tad bit too long. Unfortunately, it was hard for me to come to terms with the anti-hero’s POV. Neither his fascination with the slokas nor his stake in the murder has been rationally justified; and since these two points describe the reason for this story’s existence, the plot seemed to me to come out loose at certain points.
The author has chucked traditional publishing methods and has gone the self-publishing route – and though it is really commendable to take the scenic path, it comes at the cost of bumpy (read misspelt) words and irregular grammar. A more thorough editing would have polished this story up really well – perhaps a second edition would rectify that.
To sum it up:
But apart from these usual casualties, Bhrigu Mahesh PhD: The return of Damayanti is definitely a laudable achievement for the author to create our very own Detective duo and that too in Indian English Literature. What shines through is certain parts of the narrative that binds together the provincial setting with local superstitions & petty crimes to make the story come alive in unexpected ways. Crime fiction in India is catching up with the younger generations, so there is still a case to be made for a good mystery novel like this. Save this book for your rainy days, when you are too tired to rack your brains through a serious abstraction and need something lighter to brighten up your mood.