The Dark Road by Mayur Didolkar is a beautifully written murder mystery. Clues have been scattered evenly throughout the book and the end is satisfactory. The chapters move between past and present, and culminate perfectly in the end. The book is so brilliantly written that you will finish the book even before you know it. At the same time, while the book was quite captivating, it could have been more enthralling. I am not talking about the gory details of murder, enthralling here means inclusion of more thrilling elements. Additionally, the latter half becomes a bit predictable and could have been improved upon.
Let us turn our attention to its plot. A young female athlete is found murdered in one remote location in Pune. Prasanna Killedar, a retired police officer, is asked to take part in the investigation of this murder. A number of interesting threads appear as investigation progresses. However, as is generally the case with most murder mysteries, instead of solving the mystery of murder, these threads entangle with each other and mystery becomes more complex. The victim had a complex personality and a number of people could have killed her. But, most of these people are having perfect alibies. Prasanna Killedar does not believe in any of these alibies and slowly but steadily tries to disentangle various threads of this complex murder. And, as happens in all the murder mysteries, she solves the case at the end. There is also an exciting twist at the end.
There are a number of interesting characters in this book. Prasanna Killedar, the central character of this novel is surely likable but appears to be one-dimensional. I would have liked to see a multi-faceted sleuth. Anyway, coming out with a female sleuth is praiseworthy as Indian authors rarely try to put a female character in the lead in a murder mystery. The victim’s character has been sketched well and many angles have been added to her personality. Her character is also very likable and readers will definitely root for her. Her murder forces readers to keep reading the book as they want to avenge her death. Nevertheless, the character I liked most in this book was of Pandit. His character was not only constructed brilliantly, but also was relatable.
The story is set in Pune and the descriptions of different locations of this city have been done really well. I am a resident of this city and was able to relate to these places with ease. I also enjoyed socio-political backdrop (the dynamics of the armed Naxal movement) of the book. The narration is good and the story flows smoothly. Intermingling of past and present events adds a different charm to the storyline. The author has not tried to increase the number of pages by including unnecessary events. The cover looks good and the blurb is picture-perfect.
I won’t say that it is a meaty, twisty and complex murder mystery. But, it is definitely a good piece of detective fiction and will openly recommend to all.