With Penumbra, Bhaskar Chattopadhyay has woven a gripping novel in the style of Agatha Christie. The book can be placed in the realm of old schooled detective and mystery literature. The book takes the reader into the scene of a ‘Locked Room Murder-Mystery’ where a perfect crime takes place. The author leaves clues for the reader and the reader analyzes these clues in an attempt to unravel the mystery himself/herself. The plot engages the attention of the reader from the first page and does not let it go till the last page. The book has a healthy dose of action as well as suspense. The pacing of the book is also commendable and you can breeze through it in one single sitting.
Let us turn our focus on the plot. The story is set in a quaint suburban bungalow, located somewhere in the outskirts of Kolkata. This bungalow is owned by Mr. Rajendra Mukherjee. On a stormy night, a group of people assemble in this bungalow to celebrate 60th birthday party of the owner of this house. This birthday party starts well but soon turns into a nightmare. What started as a birthday party soon turns evil when the wife of Mr. Rajendra Mukherjee is found dead. Few hours later, the dead body of the owner is also discovered. These two murders in that very house shake the senses of the rest of the people present there. With no chances of anybody entering from outside, it soon becomes clear that the murderer was not only inside the bungalow but also among the people gathered for the party. One of the guests present in the bungalow acts as a detective and the guilty party is revealed at the end.
There are a number of twists and turns in the story. The narrative is in first person and manages to take the mind of the reader in the same bungalow where these two murders take place. This is not an easy thing to do but Bhaskar Chattopdhyay does it so easily that you, as a reader, don’t even notice it happening. You find shadow of both Holmes and Poirot in this book. The footprints of these two detectives can be seen without any difficulty in this book.
So, what I have to say about this book? Well! It is a decent murder mystery with an interesting twist at the end. The book ends satisfactorily but does not take your breath away. It lacks that something special that is important to transcend a book into a superior book. Most probably, I have read too many murder mysteries recently. I am also not happy with the way the characters have been dealt in this book. I feel that characters of this book could have been developed further especially the female characters. These characters don’t quite manage to evolve beyond their types.
Taken as a whole, I found this book to be an enjoyable read. If you are a fan of crime fiction and enjoy reading Agatha Christie, then this book is for you. You will have a great time with this.