The Serpents of Kanakapuram by Sudeepa Nair
Publisher: Notion Press
Price: Rs. 350 INR(paperback), Rs. 120 INR(Kindle edition)
Buy here: https://amzn.to/3w1n3xt
My take on the book:
Meera Mohan was struck in Kanakapuram, a small village in Kerala, during her professional consulting visit to India. As the state was ravaged by deadly floods forcing Meera to cancel her travel plans back to the US, she instantly strikes a chord with the friendly people in the neighborhood where her guest house is located.
Bhuvanamma, who ran a modest eatery of home cooked meals, Unni and Rani, the young couple from the village whom Bhuvanamma treated as her own kin, Leena and Hari, the ento-biologist and architect duo, Hussain the caretaker of the guest house.
Bhuvanamma’s backyard has a Sarppakavu(A Serpent Grove) where she loved to continue the tradition of lighting the lamp in late evenings, however, with couple of deaths in the house in the past few years, her well-wishers from the neighborhood wished she sold the house and stayed away from the grove. Though Meera returns to the US after her assignment, fate has different plans as she gets pulled back into the life of the people of Kanakapuram.
More deaths at the house along with death of her close friend and colleague in the US only deepens the mystery around Meera. Will Meera be able to find the truth behind these sudden deaths or will she herself fall prey to this supposed haunted house, forms the rest of the story.
The story mixes multiple elements like myth, biology, mystery with folklore to weave a concoction, interestingly set in today’s world. Even the long-forgotten nuances of treating animals and plants as own family is sensibly touched by the other. Though the story has multiple characters spread between Kanakapuram and the US, each of them get the right footage and the main characters are well developed.
The title is well thought, the cover is very catchy and will make the reader pick it up. Serpent groves are generally known as sacred places of worship and the author picks this backdrop to weave a mystery that keeps the reader guessing till the end. The first half is superb with the story moving at a fast pace; however, the story loses tempo towards the end as the thrill of revealing the mystery could have been better handled by the author.
Though it is fiction, the characters behave in a sensible manner, especially the protagonist Meera who maintains her bold stand while being smart, without being overtly heroic. The author describes the locales so vividly that the reader can imagine the grove and Bhuvanamma’s house surroundings.
The USP of the book is the unique backdrop chosen by the author; pick this one if you like to read mysteries especially set in Indian context laced with myth and folklore.