The stage is totally dark. Suddenly enters a character inside the stage-who may have committed the crime. The limelight falls on him for the moment-then he exists from the stage. Then enters another one- the play is going to m be repeated once again. But one thing is similar for all the characters- all have strong motive for committing the crime.
This is the way of narration of the story- at least in respect of The Murder of Sonia Raikkonen by Salil Desai- at least in respect of this murder mystery of Inspector Saralakar. Frankly speaking, this is the first time I have got the opportunity of discovering the way Inspector Saralakar, homicide squad, Mumbai Police works-and I became completely absorbed with it. True, this guy does not have brilliant detection power as like Sherlock Holmes-does not play a game of elimination as our very own Byomkesh Bakshi-does not have a hunch for crime as Father Brown-but can arrive at the conclusion from logical reasoning and a little bit of homework from here and there. He is a smart, intelligent detective of twenty first century who makes ample use of technology in the course of solving the crime. It is the humane face of the detective that makes him more admirable. Sometimes he overlooks a point or makes an error-but does not hesitate to make a confession of it!
Inspector Saralakar appears to me, more a real world character rather than a fictional hero.
Let us come to the fiction part-taking away our gaze from the characterisation of the detective-for the time being. Sonia- a Finnish national was brutally stabbed in one of her visits to India. She is actually a frequent visitor to Indian soil. In the narration of the writer,
“Her assailant had shown no qualms for mutilating her tender, young body repeatedly-as if determined not to be accused of compassion or squeamishness. The grapping slashes on her torso and across her neck seemed to cruelly inspect just how deep her beauty went.
It should’ve been a quick but painful death by all appearances, yet she had bled and, and apparently lived long enough to crawl up to the garden fencing. Her fingers were clasped around the wire mesh of the fence in what seemed like a bid to raise herself, face framed against it. That’s probably when death had overtaken her, and that’s how two street hoarding workers on their daily nocturnal assignment, had spotted her, an hour later.”
Our protagonist is on a trail of finding –of who is the murderer- and he is virtually clueless- except a white sandal what has been recovered on the spot. However readers are not clueless-the writer introduced with them with the suspects –one by one. First one is her boyfriend Vaino Gradstrom- who seems to be in a hurry to escape out of India. They had a separation some days after they have arrived in India-amidst a fight! And now-“his face is free of injuries fortunately. Vano’s attention turned towards the dirt under his fingernails and he cringed. He had to clean and cut his nails. Finishing his bath he stepped outside just as his mobile begun buzzing.” why he is in a hurry?
Then enters Badri Tiwari-the cabbie. The writer with artistic precision has described the state of mind of the driver who seems to be completely unnerved and it seems he will be the happiest person on earth if someone arranges a rocket for him to return to his home village at Uttar Pradesh. Well-he is not also above the suspicion from the point of view of the reader. ‘What if by chance the happenings of previous nights had already been discovered? Wouldn’t he be walking straight into trouble and miss the train? It would be a recipe for disaster. Yet what other way was there? Badri felt a fresh surge of panic. He had to hurry.”
Or take the case of Vikram Mohla-the handsome hunk who had a sweet and sour relation with Sonia. Why a remark from one of her friends, regarding Sonia-sent a chill down to his spine? Is he too involved?
Going virtually clueless- another murder of an unidentified old man was discovered. There was a striking similarity-in respect of the pattern of stabbing and wound. Another clue is the discovery of the lost pair of white sandal from the murder sight. When two murders are linked up- it appears they are like two broken ends of the same thread.
Plunging deeper into the case our protagonist started to discover that everyone is under a facade- nobody has a straightforward appearance- nobody is above suspicion. And what appeared to be a simple case of robbery- rape and murder by local goons- gradually started to assume the shape of a complex case. Newer facts have started to get discovered and everything comes under the scanner. Even the purpose of Sonia’s frequent visit to India revealed startling facts!
A detection story full of unpredictability, full of thrill is sure to compel the reader to turn into an avid fan of Inspector Saralkar-who is a first timer to the series like me.
And then?
Well, certainly if I tell the whole story then the joy of reading will be spoiled.
A detective works with the darker sides of human mind. Sometimes ugly facts do surface. Like a scuba driver detective goes deep into the sea of human mind and discovers psychological facts that compel the criminal to commit a crime. In this sense every crime has lots of clue-if the past life, the psychology of the suspect is put under scanner.
And the writer –who creates such genius?
Well- I always wonder how they can and it remains to me still a mystery!


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