A Death in the Himalayas by Udayan Mukherjee
Publisher: Picador India
Price: Rs. 499 INR(Hardcover), Rs. 285 INR(Kindle edition)
Buy here: https://amzn.to/2y9PiC9
Why would anyone kill a well-meaning foreigner like Clare Watson in a quiet neighbourhood in the foothills of the Himalayas?
Yes, Clare was a fearless woman. But why would she venture into the dark forest after sundown knowing it fully well as leopard habitat?
When a celebrity author-activist is found battered in a Himalayan forest spring, the event resounds internationally. India jumps into headlines once again as a country that is unsafe for women. Closer home, the tragedy divides the sleepy village into gentle folk who mourn the dreadful passing of their dear friend and the motivated elite who believe she was begging for trouble.
As Neville Wadia picks his way through the blood-splattered hills of Birtola, he begins to unpack the deadly truth that killed Clare, only to realize there are other tender lives at stake.
What kind of killer is at work here: a jealous lover, a dejected husband, a sharp land grabber, a wily politician or a disgruntled local?
Tense and atmospheric, A DEATH IN THE HIMALAYAS is a mesmerizing mystery about the little-known intimacies of an idyllic locale.
About the author:
Udayan Mukherjee was born in Calcutta. He had a two-decade-long career as a television anchor and editor and continues to be an occasional commentator and newspaper columnist. He divides his time between the Uttarakhand Himalayas and Mumbai. He is the author of the novel Dark Circles. This is his second novel.
My take on the book:
Clare Watson, originally from England and now a resident of Birtola village in the Himalayas, was spotted dead in the forest adjacent to the village. Satish Kalia from Delhi reaches this quaint village to crack this murder mystery and meets Neville Wadia an ex-policeman from Mumbai who is now settled in Birtola with his wife Shehnaz. Neville joins SK on his request for the murder investigation as Neville has the advantage of being a local for the past two years.
No evidence found near the dead body and multiple suspects — Clare constantly invited controversy during her stay in India. Her book on minorities brought her hate mail and forced her to quit all social media, even give up using a smart phone, there is a new book in the editing stage about mining mafia; she was the crusader against the abuse and violence women of the village were subjected to, inviting the wrath of the men; Clare also stood against the land mafia who were destroying the Himalayan eco system for commercial purposes.
Neville and SK hence had a tough task at hand as the list of enemies Clare made seemed endless. How will these men figure out the motive and the murderer forms the rest of the story.
The first half is racy as Clare’s background, the residents of the resort and other villagers, people who developed animosity towards Clare are introduced quickly. The author’s vivid description of these hill stations and the simple life will make the reader want to pack bags for their next visit. However, as the story progresses and the mystery unfolds, the reader will be left wanting more as the story feels underwhelming. In recent murder mysteries, the use of technology to nab the culprits has been on the rise but here, Neville and SK are seen interrogating all the suspects personally and using their experience and intellect to crack the case.
If the reader can read it as a story in the hills showcasing the socio-political dynamics of an outsider like Clare tries to correct the wrongs happening, then the book makes for a decent read. If you are a fan of hard-core thrillers and murder mysteries then this one may fall short of your expectations. Read it instead for the beautiful Himalayan experience and the changing life in the hills.