Book Review: Thrills, Spills…and Giggles

June 14, 2013

Murder, a housewife caught up in the middle of it, police, foul play, dastardly plot…those seem to be the ingredients of a typical run of the mill thriller, don’t they? Well, they are all there in The Reluctant Detective. But the book is anything but run of the mill.

Nay, this is not a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat like the routine thriller. For, you will be too busy lying deep in your sofa or bed, shaking with laughter. Yes, The Reluctant Detective is one of a rare breed – a thriller that makes you laugh – putting Kiran Manral in some very special company, alongside the likes of Lindsey Davis, Edmund Crispin and HRF Keating.

But to get to the book itself, The Reluctant Detective is a rather slim volume, spanning a mere 180-odd pages. The plot also is rather straight forward – a housewife Kanan Mehra (know as ‘Kay’) gets involuntarily (make that ‘extremely involunatrily’) involved in two murders. She is the last one to see a person alive and the among the first to see another dead. Before she knows it, she gets tangled in the investigation of both deaths, with some help from a rather snoopy friend. Now, in most cases, this leave the reader wondering about well, “who did it. ”

Not here.

No, The Accidental Detective will instead have you wondering what Kay and here family will do next – her husband is the pucca, correct types (often referred to as ‘the man’) and her only child is forever trying to live up to the title of ‘brat’ that his mother has bestowed on him – at one stage, he slips into the role of ACP Pradyumna (of CID serial fame) and asks his father to break down the door to their house. The man has his moments too, being unflappable when they come across aforementioned dead body and tolerating his spouse’s flights of fancy with many a weary sigh. But it is Kay who is very much the star of the show. She seems right out of the Shopaholic series, and that is not a bad thing at all, as per us, because instead of the relentless bloodhound out to defend law and order, what we have is a relatively young Indian wife who is terrified of blood, worries about how she will look on television, does not want to be left out of the neighbourhood gossip and wonders what happened to the headband of a spectre that has materialised on her bedside!

The result is one hilarious roller coaster ride, that might not be the highest on chills and thrills, but will have you in splits. Kiran Manral has more than a fair bit of wit about her and her narration is smooth enough even to tide over some sentences that seem to go on and on! Yes, we can see the “thriller purist” crowd clicking its tongues in reproof at this book, as well, it seems to generate more laughs than thrills. But we are not complaining. It has been a long time since a murder mystery made us laugh so much. Would we have liked a greater element of mystery in it? Honestly, we were too busy laughing to notice.

Read The Reluctant Detective. Not for thrills or action at breakneck speed. But simply to partake of the greatest medicine of all – laughter.

The Reluctant Detective
Kiran Manral
184 pp
Rs 195

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