Page 3 Murders, A Lalli Mystery : Kalpana Swaminathan

Page 3 Murders is a well written suspense thriller with no pretense at stylized writing. The whole scenario is artificial and nowhere the author has tried to make a claim to authenticity of any nature. But the storyline is well worked out and presented in such a way that all can easily follow the story line.

Having said that, the book has suspense at many levels. It is a murder mystery alright. The initial suspense is that unlike other murder mysteries, in this novel, the book is two third gone before a murder takes place. Normally such books are about who is the murderer.In this book,you are mostly wondering as to who is going to get murdered. I was afraid, that there will be no murder at all. So I heaved a sigh of relief when finally the cook gets murdered followed by a quick couple of murders one after another.

The problem arises that the murders happen so late in the book, that the solution has to be presented in a hurry and some how left me still hungry for more. The way of solving the murders is very similar to hundreds of detective books I have read since childhood, where the reader is left guessing about the identity of the murderer and made to doubt everybody except the butler who is actually the murderer as proved by the ace detective at the end of the book. Almost like a magician pulling a rabbit out of the hat. Like all such books, the detective collects all the survivors at one place and then just narrates a script which forces you to accept the detective’s theory of the murders and the murderer abjectly surrenders and is arrested.

Another similarity is the presence of the detective and the sidekick who is also the narrator. Reminds me of Sexton Blake-Tinker, Sherlock Holmes-Dr.Watson, Colonel Vinod-Hamid countless other such pairs who have been keeping me engrossed with their detection exploits for last 55 years. That the police cannot solve the murders is also a given in books of this genre.Reminds you of Mrs.Marple, Hercule Poirot and our home grown Sunil Kumar Chakraborty and many others.

The gastronomic capabilities of the author, it is almost a cookery book, are amply demonstrated.The book should have been named Khana Khazana murders in place of its title-Page 3 murders. I am sure lot of the dishes will turn out to be delicious if you try them. Only the cook may end up getting conked.

The cook himself is an answer to every housewife’s prayer .Where you get a Gem who can single handedly prepare umpteen dishes to suit individual tastes of a houseful of guests at the same time hinting at hidden secrets of each of them and even making the protagonist fall in love with him. He was so perfect that he was asking to be murdered.

The English country home atmosphere where all kinds of random people get invited for weekends and then somehow turnout to be connected in the past. By a happy coincidence the victims, the murderer and an interested audience form a part of this motley group. Reminds you of vintage Agatha Christie. The author has transposed the scene to Mumbai but the setup does not gel in Indian lifestyle. People related to each other and gathered for a family function,funeral or wedding is more Indian.

Having said that, the book is very interesting, a light reading , does not stress your grey cells and a good companion for a long train journey. A bit old world, but so what. Re-polished or fake antiques can also be a source of pleasure, so why not a detective novel remixed from old classics. I can strongly recommend it to people who like murder mysteries whatever the logic.


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