This here is yet another non review . I’ve already stated my case for not doing reviews, simply because I do not know how to, and therefore cannot ! However what I can do is to share my perspective, after reading a book, and that is what I am going to do. Again
“Murder on the high seas” is the tagline for this racy thriller, called “Love on the Rocks”, a debut novel of a successful MBA graduate working with Thomas Cook, turned full time writer – Ismita Tandon Dhanker.
That, in itself should give one an idea of where the action is going, and does. The entire story is set in a merchant navy vessel, aptly named “Sea Hyena”, and worked into the story are details of life aboard a MNV (merchant navy vessel), the intricacies of relationships that grow, or stunt, on long voyages. Not to mention intrigues and murders!
It would be easy for me quote from the blurb on the back of this paperback, published by Penguin Books India, but let me try and bring a bit of me into it The ego you know, cannot be but appeased
Sancha, a newly wed, joins her husband, the Chief Officer, aboard the Sea Hyena, a few months after their marraige, in Japan, where the ship is berthed, before the next voyage. They intend to sail to Miami, with a cargo of new cars. Sancha is a lively, inquisitive, intelligent girl. Very contemporary. And very much in love with her husband Aaron.
She soon comes to know of the death of the previous cook on board the ship, before it came to harbour, at Japan, and starts wondering what could have happened. Later, during a party one evening, almost twenty thousand dollars is found missing from the Captain’s safe. This brings in the Safety and Quality Officer of the Company, who is looked upon with wariness, and respect by the Officers and Crew of the ship. Sancha’s curiosity, and her interest in the investigation also finds respect in Raghav, the investigating officer.
Almost everyone, in her eyes, could have been involved in it. For almost everyone has secrets, and oddities, that slowly reveal themselves in the least expected moments. Whether it is Captain Kuruvilla (the Master of the ship) and his foul language, Aaron, her husband, the Chief Engineer Kurian, First Engineer Harsh, or even the Engine Cadet, Alex, or Baldy as he is called.
Matters come to a head, when another murder takes place, and the sh** hits the fan, in a manner of speaking ! What comes of the investigation and how, as the writer puts it, “deceit was the only universal truth” comes to be, is what wraps an eventful voyage for Sancha.
I started reading late last evening, with plenty of breaks, given that my medication has a tendency to induce sleep regularly, but I did get so absorbed in the story, that I had it completed by this evening. Given my varied activities, and the sedation, now that is a record ! So, why am I telling you this? I did enjoy reading it, and it was absorbing.
To the mechanics, now, (for want of a better way to say what I am going to ). You’ve got appreciate the life and the excess baggage that a Merchant Navy Officer/ Crew and his family have, to be able to fully understand the nuances here. As a spouse, you may accompany your husband (if he is an officer), on voyages. But it does get lonely, darned lonely for a woman without company. And for men, starved of female company for long stretches of time, this can be either a welcome distraction, or a problem! Ismita brings out the dilemma of both the men and the woman concerned quite effectively.
The entire novel is in the first person, of not just one character. Interestingly, each of the main characters, speaks / writes, in parts, in sections, and helps the story develop not just in a linear manner, but in a sort of web, that , as a reader, you want to connect, and complete. It’s difficult, but, yes, in a sense you can manage to make it work. At least your guess work on the Who Actually Dunnit would work. The end, however, is skillfuly concocted. Concocted. You’ll understand, and perhaps enjoy that concoction, as I did!
There are times though, when I found the conversations/ dialogues a bit unnatural, in the sense that I have / I am/ We are seem artificial. These always find a better resonance in its shortened forms, for sheer natural feeling. So it could have been I’ve/ I’m/ We’re. Probably that is the only thing I found to quibble gently about, in the book.
The sub-plot too, is artfully managed, and gels well with the rest of the plot.
Ismita is the wife of a Merchant Navy Officer, and has been on a voyage with her husband. So the story comes, also, from real time experiences, in terms of descriptions and notions and prejudices There is always the doubt about the “I” in the novel, as I have mentioned already in previous non review – whether or not one understands the “I” to be separate from the author. Finally we take what we want from it, anyway, no matter who says what!
All in all, this was a book I did enjoy very much! Thank you Ismita, also known as Lesser Known Poet, on Facebook, for the request, and for sending the book across. In fact, dear readers, I must also tell you that she is adept at poetry too, and you can read some wonderful pieces on her blog too!
The pictures have been taken (oops, without permission, but I know she won’t mind ) from Ismita’s blog. All credit to whoever took those pictures
This is a book you’d enjoy if you’re into murder mysteries, and enjoy a good sail Happy Reading!
17 September, 2012
(Just under 1000 words! yayyyy! )