2018: One Book Down, So Many More to Go

There you go … the first book I finished reading in 2018. Although, having read the book, I am not really sure it’s that great an achievement at all. I mean, this detective Vish Puri is average at best, and downright insipid if I am not feeling generous. And for a story that sells itself as a thriller, it isn’t all that exciting either exciting at all.Vish Puri, the protagonist, lacks the flair for drama that has endeared so many detectives to me – Sherlock Holmes (both the old and the new one), Poirot with his wild gesticulations, Byomkesh Bakshi with his quiet, yet powerful personality, Max Carrados – the blind detective, even the elderly spinster Miss Marple who stumbled upon the strangest things in her sleepy little village.

But even beyond that, Puri lacks any depth of character. He’s like a two-dimensional cutout that bores you with its one-dimensional personality. He is a detective who lives for food because that’s what he’s doing for the best part of 360 pages – just binging away on all the things that he’s not allowed to binge on. Predictably, his wife has put him on a strict diet and he uses his sleuthing skills to cheat on her as best as he can – with delicious snacks and street food, that is.

Yet another thing that baffles me is how a 90+ kilo guy with a rotund frame can get away with being a detective, much less not being recognized by his adversaries in his ridiculous disguises. If there’s anything I’ve learned from all the detective novels I’ve read, they’re not meant to be conspicuous. This fella sticks out like a sore thumb – like one of those gigantic roly-poly toys you see in stores – the ones you can punch all you want, but they never fall over. How the hell do you disguise that?

The novel has tried to attribute several stellar qualities to the detective, but he really doesn’t behave in a way to merit those accolades. He’s supposed to be India’s leading detective, but I don’t know why, he was featured on the cover page of a magazine – a great way for a detective to blow his cover, I think – and his is the name that criminals are wary of – but possibly because they think he’ll eat them out of house and home!

Vish Puri is neither brilliant, nor particularly sleuth-y, nor a dashing action hero out to save the day. Instead, he’s morbidly obese and violently (and unreasonably) anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan. Oh, and he would also love to round up all the dogs and kill them off because he got bitten once. He’s also fairly conservative and hangs on to Indian value system like a leech.

All in all, the protagonist does very little to pull me in, and I was hoping the story would step in and make things better. But, nope. Even the story is insipid. I said that right at the beginning, didn’t I? But only because I mean it with all my heart and soul. The story is as soggy as a handkerchief that’s been at the receiving end of a badly running nose, and halfway through the book, I just wanted to put it down and go to sleep. I should have cos that would have been time well spent.

Here’s the synopsis:

Just to point out – this assignment was hardly ‘daring’, he DID not travel ‘deep into the heart of Pakistan’, and the solution to the mystery was such a major let down that I had to go back a few pages to make sure I hadn’t missed something relevant.

As I was reading the story, I realised that I just didn’t care about the good boys or the bad boys. It didn’t matter if the criminals were brought to book because I didn’t really care for the victim himself. How could I? Nobody spent any time fleshing out his character. He was done away with before readers had even a chance to notice his entry, and once he was gone, we didn’t couldn’t be bothered if he got justice.

As for this boring detective – Vish Puri – blah! He has no brainwaves, no exciting Eureka moments, and no spectacular revelations. He just speaks this obsequious version of the English language that’s rife with every possible Indianism you can imagine and gives nicknames like Full Moon and Face Cream to his associates and rivals alike. And he has to face the ignominy of having to work with his mummy-ji to solve his case. Groan!

The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken is neither deadly nor particularly delicious. A thrilling page-turner it is not – there’s no excitement, no edge of the seat action, no sense of doom or impending danger, and definitely no grand adventure. It’s more like ‘Ho-hum, someone’s been killed and now let’s go and find the killer and in the process talk about this detective who is busy stuffing himself with all the fattening food he can get his grubby fingers on’.

This is one butter chicken I wasn’t tempted by. I am likely to forget that I read this book by the time the week is out. Still, I gave it a fair chance – and that’s all a book can ask of a reader and all a reader can promise a book.

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