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A Useful Death — by Sriram Chellapilla

Publisher: Westland India Publishers

Pages: 416

Price: Rs. 399 INR(Paperback), Rs. 212 INR(Kindle Edition)

ISBN: 978–9353040871

Buy here: https://amzn.to/2MXvPYW

Aspiring actress Priya is dead. It’s a suicide, and rumour has it that Anil, son of politician and former Telugu-movie superstar Mohan Krishna, drove her to it. Just another film-industry scandal? Or something bigger, much bigger?

Partha, hired by Mohan Krishna’s family to handle the crisis, thinks so. Why won’t such a powerful father defend his son, Partha wonders. Is there an intra-family war? Whose interests are playing out in the media and on social media? Is a political game afoot or is this all connected to Mohan Krishna’s own dubious past? And why are student unions getting involved?

Even as Partha and his associates, Seema and Harish, confront the ethics of being involved in a war with no heroes, they are drawn into a dangerous hunt. They must negotiate a tangled and vicious world to answer one question: a young woman is dead — to whom is her death useful?

About the author:

Sriram Chellapilla is a writer and screenwriting lecturer. He has a Masters in Communication and lives and works in Hyderabad. His first novel The Long Reverie of Partha Sarma (Penguin India) was published in 2006.

My take on the book:

Aspiring actress Priya is found dead in her home and the main suspect who is believed to have driven her to commit suicide is Anil, son of Telugu Film Star Mohan Krishna. Priya and Anil were supposed to debut together in a film, and rumor has it that Anil and Priya had a love affair, which ended with Priya being dropped from the movie and may be from Anil’s life that drove her to end it all.

Partha Rao, a known person to Mohan Krishna’s family is hired to handle the situation as media is bent on proving Anil’s involvement and hence end his career before launch and his father’s political aspirations. The ruling party, media, press, and friends of Priya from the university she graduated, all have their own version of the conspiracy.

Priya’s personal belongings — her mobile and laptop are missing from the crime scene, a student from the university is missing at the same time, however, Mohan Krishna’s family suspect someone else from the family other than Anil who developed proximity towards Priya, to be the main suspect. Partha along with his associates Seema and Harish set out to crack this puzzle while unknowingly getting tangled in a web of lies, deceit and conspiracies before finding the truth — how and to whom is this ‘A Useful Death’.

The story opens with Priya found dead and Partha hired by Anil’s team to handle the crisis. At the outset, the story starts like any mystery, a dead body, few clues and known suspects. Instead of police or a detective agency, here, a group of crisis management consultants set about trying to find truth behind the death.

What sets the story apart is the way the story is narrated by the author, the characters chosen and how they are built up slowly, revealing their past, and tying the several threads together while revealing the mystery step by step. The conversations are smart and to the point, the reason behind each character’s behavior is well justified, so are the action sequences which are narrated without going overboard. The sequences in the Green belt, in Kadapa and in the hospital, are engrossing and are the highlights of the story.

The author has smartly woven a story involving multiple facets of the society — film industry, rich and powerful families, political conspiracies, influence of universities on young minds, ideologies, economic inequalities, but never gets into preaching or justifying any side. The story highlights how different sections of the society and people try to exploit a given situation for their own selfish reasons.

If you must pick one book this year let it be this one, as the book is brilliant from start to end.

My rating: