Only a handful of Indian authors are able to write page-turning crime thrillers. It is not that crime thrillers or murder mysteries are not getting published, in fact, there go hundreds of them every quarter. But, what separates a page turner from a predictable thriller. For sure, it is the depth and intensity of the story. Reading a well-placed crime thriller is as pleasant as watching an action-packed Hollywood movie. Recently, I had an impactful experience with my latest finding in the crime suspense genre: The Lost Woman of Santacruz by Vijay Medtia. This is my first book from the author.
The novel’s scaffold is built on two murders that take place intermittently. The story opens up with a murder in Santacruz, a locality of Mumbai. Retired Deputy Chief of Police (DCP) Chandra is brutally stabbed. Why and how? That needs to be investigated. Though the novel opens up with a crime scene, however, its storyline is fragmented. There are many characters other than the lead Police Inspector Ajay Shaktawat. Yes, this book is first in the series of Inspector Ajay Shaktawat. How many more planned or on the way? I don’t have a definite answer. I shall need to follow the author for that.
Just like any classic crime thriller, this cannot be done without sweeps. So, the police cop Ajay Shaktawat is a disturbed man owing due to his family problems. What are they? I won’t discuss here in length but would like to say that his wife doesn’t like him as he keeps himself busy at duty and his mother thinks that Ajay can be a gentleman if he worked with a bank.
The novel is set in Mumbai of 1990s, probably mid or late 90s. Vijay did not put anything hastily, he has good know how about Mumbai and what customs and locales were trending that time. As a matter of fact, this crime thriller sounds apt and on point due to the Mumbai factor. Had it been placed against some other city, it could have been a dull attempt. In India either Mumbai or Shimla best fits for crime fiction.
Let’s get into the story and explore the meaning of the title. After the murder of DCP Chandra, one more retired policeman was brutally murdered. Inspector Ajay Shaktawat runs pell-mell for evidences and trials, he gets that DCP Chandra and the other cop were involved into a gold scandal case. Probably, they had some tiff with the underworld people. They could have been murdered by the underworld mafia. But why so late. Next thing surfaces was that Chandra was living with a woman, who goes missing after the murder. The search starts. Someone suspicious is spotted. Police uses its intelligence and networking. They spot one guy named Rai. Now Inspector Ajay Shaktawat has to investigate that man. Will he frame the guy randomly or justice will find its way? It was thrilling to read how the case progresses and story advances. I will not say that it is an action-packed novel; rather, it has its own charm and moves in a subtle way. The lead character has his own methods to solve the cases. This factor makes this novel highly readable and different from warts- and-all stuff.
Our View on the Cover:
It is a Mumbai cover. It shows its skyline, mess, hustle-bustle and the charm of the city that never sleeps. It is a likeable cover, yet not so captivating. The catchy thing is its title in bold. Overall, it appeals to me and the bluish haze makes me think that the novel could be a crime thriller.
It is a one-character focused novel. It features the police inspector Ajay Shaktawat. There are some good characters also in the form of his team. Since the book is comprehensive in its nature and storyline, you will see characters from his family members too. A crime novel is incomplete without a long cast of intriguing characters. Yes, it has many characters that rise and fade from time to time. Ajay Shaktawat is flawed at personal life but overall a good and robust policeman. I felt that his honesty and ability fuelled the charm factor in the novel.
If you can remember Vijay other than his novels, well then it would be his brilliant writing style. He is a class in himself. You can pick up any of his novels – you will not be disappointed with respect to writing, engagement, grammar, and everything. He sounds like a perfect author. Truly holds a genuine flair for penning down crime thriller novels.
Our Final Verdict:
A brilliantly written piece of literature, the Lost Woman of Santacruz qualifies for a classical crime novel. Nothing is redundant about the book, it’s perfectly sized up with many sizzling subplots. The novel can be remembered for its unconventional investigative scaffold, with powerful yet intriguing characters.
|Title||The Lost Woman of Santacruz|
|The Asian Review Rating||9 out of 10|