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The Fast and the Dead by Anuja Chauhan

My take on the book:

In Habba Galli of Shivajinagar, Bengaluru on the auspicious evening of Karwa Chauth, as the women eagerly waited for the moon to show up to break their day-long fast, ninety-five-year-old Dondi Pais brought out her shotgun to dissipate a pack of street dogs.

While the six bullets she shot did hit one of the dogs Roganjosh, injuring it badly, unaware to everyone who witnessed this rage of Dondi Pais, Sushil Kedia the rich owner of Kedia group of jewellery shops is also hit direct in the head, while he was working on few jewellery designs in his atelier, right across the street from Dondi Pais.

As Sushil’s family discovers his dead body the next morning, ACP Bhavani Singh who is on his annual honeymoon with wife Shalini, coincidentally holidaying in Habba Galli at the time, is requested by the local police to help crack the case.

As Bhavani along with the local police Naik meets the Kedia family and the residents of Habba Galli, he realizes everyone had some motto to kill Sushil as he was disliked by everyone around him. Haider Sait the upcoming Bollywood actor who is known for his techniques of method-action, is one of the prime suspects. Is Sushil’s death an accident caused by Dondi Pais or is it a preplanned murder forms the rest of the story.

When the story begins with focus on Dondi Pais and her Gunny boy, the Pilla party who loved the strays and an opposition group who hated these dogs to an extent they could as well kill the strays, the reader may not understand significance of these details, but such minor details shared by the author at the beginning add up to the mystery as the story unfolds.

The first half with all the characters being introduced moves at a very fast pace, while the second half drag a little when ACP Bhavani speaks to all the neighbors and some information seems repetitive. But the pre-climax and climax bring so many unexpected twists that the reader will not realize when the story ended.

The highlight of the book is hands-down the wit and humor that is filled all through, even in the most humorous situations. The funny accents and mannerisms each character carries are well designed by the author. The setup of Habba Galli will bring back fond memories of the times most of us lived in neighborhoods where everyone knew everyone around, unlike the present apartment culture.

However, the love story between Haider and Jhoomar Rao takes back seat in the middle of all the drama happening with other characters. The author maintains the suspense well, as the narration keeps the reader on edge, while guessing the culprit. Also, the author gives equal importance to every person in Habba Galli without confusing the reader which is rare in books with multiple characters.

Pick this one this holiday season, to read a cozy story of a vibrant neighborhood with characters of all sorts of quirks.

My rating: