It Takes a Murder

Author : Anu Kumar

Source : Amazon

Source : Amazon

Publisher : Hachette

About the Author

Anu Kumar has a degree in history from Delhi University and has also specialized in human resources management at the XLRI School of Business. She writes for children as well as for older readers, and her short stories have appeared in various magazines and anthologies. It Takes a Murder is her third novel for older readers after Letters for Paul (Mapin 2006) and The Dollmakers’ Island (Gyaana, 2010). She lives in Singapore with her husband and four-year-old daughter.

Summary on Book Jacket

When Gautam Dogra is found murdered in his study one afternoon in the small hill station of Brooks Town, the police dismiss it as a relatively simple case. But Charlotte Hyde knows well that a murder never happens in a day ? it follows its own timeline. As Kerketta, Charlotte’s old retainer, always said, a murder is written into your life at the very beginning. As Charlotte begins telling the story of Dogra’s death, it soon becomes clear that his story can only be fully understood in the light of many other stories. Of her estranged daughter, Maddy, of the political climes in which they lived. Of lost hopes and lost loves, of small humiliations and disillusionments and, above all, of the slow incitement to violence that the terror of loss brings into quiet lives.

My Learning 

Experiment with the prose to make your work interesting. This ‘Literary Mystery’ has all the ingredients of a classic whodunnit, with a little something extra that makes it taste ‘Oh so fresh!’

I saw this book displayed in a book store and was immediately drawn to it. Such was the appeal of the cover. There was  serenity in its muted colors, a sentimental quality to it. I am quite fond of murder mysteries and I was hooked as soon as I read the title of the book, though I knew at once that it was not the proverbial cozy mystery.  If the cover art was not proof enough, flipping through the first few pages clearly conveyed the tone of the book.

Anu Kumar’s prose is uniquely nostalgic, the reminiscences of  an Anglo-Indian lady, Charlotte, past her prime now. As memories go, what triggers them  is only know to their bearers. So, the story of Charlotte’s  life unfolds with many other interlinked tales. Tales of her daughter, friends, colleagues and neighbors; tales of her love affairs, her past flames; tales of the quaint little hill station ‘Brooks Town’. The backdrop of all these stories being the larger picture of India in her growth years, 1984 Sikh Massacre, riots in Ayodhya and the disintegration of princely states. The protagonist delves in and out of her memories with an almost muddled allude. This act of hiding some, revealing some creates a mystery for not only the murder of Dogra, central to the theme, but also the lives of the residents of Brooks Town. The reader wants to find out what happens to them in the long run and how their relationships evolve with time.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Anu Kumar’s work immensely. She has a way with words, a gift most profound. Even in a conventional mystery it is very difficult for an author to engage the reader in the guessing game and keep the plot interesting and pacy. Being a literary mystery, I must say that the author has done a commendable job. At certain places the intermingling of recollections became a tad confusing for me. Keeping track of the years, stories and quite a few characters was a bit tedious. But worth the effort, I must say.

The book was a pleasant read. Thank you, Anu Kumar for brightening a few of the dark hours of my leaden nights. (An affliction of  pacifying a screaming baby in the dead hours of the night and then lying awake for the better part of it because sleep is still elusive.)

PS : Love the cover design by Anjora Noronha . Tried to get in touch  with her on facebook but couldn’t find her. Anjora, if you happen to read this, do drop in a message. Request of a fan.