The Madras ManglerSource:

‘The Madras Mangler’ is Usha Narayanan’s first novel. Having done a Masters Degree in English Literature, worked in various roles throughout her career and also done a creative writing course, she has finally taken to writing a novel. Does it work? Let’s check it out.

The blurb goes like this –

Five pretty girls from around the country, enjoying college life in Chennai, chasing their own dreams. Until a psychopath comes to town, killing girls and dumping their bodies in the rivers. The killer is smart, dangerous and very angry. Just like Vir Pradyumna, ace criminologist from New York, who is fighting his own demons from the past. Ruthless politicians, bumbling cops, beer barons and cyber criminals run amuck. The killer snatches a girl whom Vir has sworn to protect. A Hollywood action crew and the crowds at the India-Australia cricket one-dayer get sucked into the relentless buildup to a nail-biting climax. Will Vir be in time to stop the maniac and save the girl?

The book has an interesting cover design which shows you what to expect as you go forward. The font used in the pages inside is the usual Calibri. Moreover, the title is quite catchy and has an important connect with the story.

The concept is quite appealing at the outset. A whodunit where pretty college girls go missing one by one and everyone is confused and wondering on whose next surely sounds exciting, doesn’t it? There is also a romantic element thrown in for good measure.

The book starts off with a murder and things deepen as the readers begin to turn the pages further. The narrative is pacy in most parts and structured quite well. Usha ensures that as the mystery grows, the readers are engrossed all through till the end.

She brings about various characters, clues and issues like ragging, corrupt politicians and policemen, forced marriages etc. into the mix to keep the readers guessing. The stories about each of the girls and the dialogues are written pretty well. Since the author has based the book in Chennai, she has

Vir as the criminologist from USA and Kat (Kathyani), one of the girls at SS Padmaja college who is quite brave are two of the characters that stand out. They are ably supported by Bishnu as one of the main men at the HATCHET HQ, the four girls – Lolita, Minx, Deepika, Moti and the gundas – Jambu & Balwan among others,

The negatives?

While the climax is built up quite nicely, it would have been great if Usha could have given more details on why the killer did what he did. Maybe a bit about his background story?

Secondly, the romantic angle acts as a bit of a speed-breaker in the narrative. Since it’s a murder mystery, would have loved if the romantic parts weren’t there. Or if it was necessary, would have liked for it be developed a bit more.

Thirdly, though the characterization has been done relatively well, it would have been great if the number of characters could have been reduced since it becomes a bit difficult to keep track after a while.

All in all, if you are game for a gripping murder mystery, go for this one. Pretty good first attempt by Usha.

Rating – 3.5/5

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