Sunday, December 9, 2012

Banquet On The Dead by Sharath Komarraju - A Review

My tryst with mysteries continues.

Sharath Komarraju is an author who knows his craft. I can say this, because Banquet On The Dead is his second book which has left me impressed. His first book - Murder In Amaravati - was a treat to read. Easy, laidback mystery, which makes you turn pages rapidly, but without making you feel edgy. Yes, I agree mysteries/thrillers are books which should make one jittery, accelerate palpitations and occupy the mind and heart of a reader, but Murder In Amaravati proved to be a delightful read precisely for not belonging to that racy-edgy category of books. Banquet On The Dead is a murder mystery which follows the same, calm, easy narrative style, and just about manages to satiate the reader in you.

Banquet On The Dead is an investigative journey into Kauveramma's murder. This old woman, owner of a huge estate, was found dead in the well in her compound. However, it was common knowledge that she was petrified of water, so much so, that she dreaded taking showers. Her death, then becomes more complex and intriguing a phenomenon than it was a at first understood to be. Kauveramma has a large family - full with sons, daughter, grandchildren - and almost all of them stand to gain some pecuniary advantage from her death. Who was it then, among all those, who made Kauveramma meet her end in such a grotesque manner - floating in the well, hair fanned out, limbs outspread?  The answer is discovered by an unlikely pair of detectives  - Inspector Valmiki Narayan, and a 'charming' rogue, Hamid Pasha.

Having mentioned Hamid Pasha's name in the last sentence, I must confess that he was perhaps the best takeaway from this book. Hamid Pasha's character has been fashioned very well, and if I may say, stylishly so. Among a deluge of characters, he is the one who becomes instantly recognizable and is the lynchpin for staying abreast with the storyline. And amusing too. He has his peculiarities and convictions as a detective, and his mind probes alleys of doubts which even his veteran police partner fails to conceive. More than anything else, it is the all-knowing, limping figure of Hamid Pasha, which stays with you once you close the book after a satisfied reading.

Besides brilliant characterization in terms of Hamid Pasha's, this book has many other upsides which keep you hooked onto it till the last page. Among its few negatives I would count, for starters, certain amount of tiring repetition. Too many characters in the book implies too many recounted stories, all similar except that one crucial aspect hidden as a tiny detail. The second issue I had while reading this book was the multitude of characters, who could sometimes leave you befuddled. It takes time to start differentiating one from the other, and if you, like me, are not good with names, the task only becomes more difficult. The language is simple and narrative lucid, and as reader you are aware that in the hands of a good writer, you are being securely led ahead on an interesting investigative trail. There is some local flavour interspersed in the script and the occasional linguistic transgressions make the reading a little more fun.

The climax of the story was rather creative, but it hits you in your face out of nowhere. It was entertaining and thrilling, for sure, but it the sub-plot which leads to it builds up rather late in the story. Few tiny sub-plots are also left unattended. Convincing, yes. But it does leave you asking for more. Just a little more. It is a good read for those of you who like the mystery genre. 2.5 stars on 5 is my verdict, and that is perhaps influenced by my attempt to establish a relative merit between Sharath's earlier book and this one. Between them, Murder In Amaravati would definitely be my pick! Oh, and Banquet On The Dead deserves a pat for the brilliant cover design as well.

(Reviewed on request by the author)

Book Details - 
Title - Banquet On The Dead
Author - Sharath Komarraju
Publisher - Westland
Published - 2012
Price - ₹ 250
Pages - 265
Genre - Mystery/Thriller


  1. I like thriller books so gonna get this book from my library. :) Thank You Very Much. You are very charming girl saumya even to me a very simple and matha khau boy haha...:)

    1. You are sweet enough to patiently read and then comment on my blogs. Thanks for that.