Kay Mehra, or KM, who coincidentally happens to have the same initials as the author, is a lady in her thirties with a weight problem, a five year old brat and a husband who is affectionate but not romantic. She’s given up working to bring up the brat and shows no signs of wanting to go back to professional life – she’s quite comfortable jogging early in the morning with a tennis bracelet around her wrist and a gold chain with a pendant round her neck. Life is a mix of Prada and Jimmy Choos and other designer wear belonging to her thinner days which fail; to come to the rescue on crucial occasions like Bollywood parties.
Into the middle of her placid almost designer life comes a corpse – well two corpses, though the second one fades out after a while – and because the corpse was murdered on the jogging streets outside the complex where Kay lives and lived in the complex as well, Kay finds herself involved starting with a visit from the police. The lady in question had her throat cut but her iPod was not stolen – the only thing that was as her pink and white jogging shoes.
Kay finds that murder is unnecessarily close on her heels and starts carrying a pepper spray on her morning runs, with rather disastrous consequences. She also starts seeing ghosts– namely the ghost of the murder victim – and finally decides it is her duty to investigate, though she has no idea what investigation involves and drags in a classmate who has become a PI.
Manral writes a snappy prose, occasionally reminiscent of Bridget Jones and the book runs quite smoothly. However the ‘brat’ could certainly have been given normal English delivered brat style instead or rather odd spellings that make him seem like some kind of alien. Kay Menon is more accidental detective than reluctant, but she manages by dint of observation to persuade the police to reopen a case that is on the brink of being wound up.
There’s a slinky man in a black smoking jacket who seems to be quite promising especially since he is linked to the other corpse in the story and since he moves into the complex. I might take a guess at predicting that he’s going to be the next story’s lead – because Kiran Manral has promised that there will be more KM stories to come.
A journalist, Manral has social observation down pat and the book is an easy summer read – what’s more it doesn’t pretend to be more than that – with a cover that flags The Devil Wears Prada in its use of the graphic heeled shoe. You can flip peacefully through it, shudder a little at the corpses and turn over. More than a murder mystery, it’s about the everyday life of the woman next door with the wrap around glasses and all her doubts and fears. And yes, it is very life in an apartment complex whether it be Mumbai or Delhi or Bangalore.
The Reluctant Detective by Kiran Manral
Published by Tranquebar in India
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