City of Death by Abheek Barua is a recently released crime fiction that tries to look into the dark side of the human mind. The book has been released not only on the mobile platform, but also as a hard copy. The story is apparently set in some unknown city of West Bengal (most probably Kolkata). Abheek Barua is strangely hesitant to name any of the spots the story is set in.
The main strength of this novel is its characters and readers will find it easy to connect with almost all of them (even with the supporting characters). The story has been told from the point of views of three different characters. These characters are Sohini Sen (a cop struggling with addiction and dejection), Arjun Sinha (another cop struggling with his past) and the murderer (a serial killer who is constantly trying to improve his art of killing). These characters are not simply black and white but, on the other hand, represent different shades of grey. These characters are flawed but likable. You turn the pages of this book because of the presence of these characters.
At the same time, I feel that some more space could have been given to the voice of the murderer. There are some scenes which depict the psychology of the murderer (and these scenes have been crafted really well) but the number of such scenes is really low. The author even could have tried to get the readers inside the killer’s mind through protagonists of this book. A clear depiction of killer’s incentive for killing is important for readers because they want to know why the guy is doing this. However, the author does not provide any single motive or incentive for his killings and leaves it to the readers to decide the same.
While characters of this novel have been sketched well, the execution of the plot disappoints you. Lack of twists and turns (an important part of any crime fiction) and too much use of present tense do not help either. Even the flashbacks have been written in present tense. The book starts well with a beautifully written first chapter but started to fizzle out soon and does not recuperate till the end. The pace of the story-line is steady but drags at certain places. Let me get to the story. Sohini Sen, a police officer who had been powerfully shunted from the authoritative gallery of Crime Branch to the edges of the police power, is all of a sudden brought once more into the spotlight when a young lady belonging to an influential family is discovered dead. What follows next is a mishmash of investigation, media circus and politics. The case comes to a sudden close due to the pressure of political machinery. However, the authorities are forced to open the case all over again when the killer strikes yet again and kills another lady in a similar manner.
While the book may not make your heart jump in your chest, I feel, on the whole, this is a good first book by the author. It is true that I did not like the execution of the story-line but there are quite a few things which leave an impact on you. And, the author certainly impresses you with his writing skills.