Author– Nita J Kulkarni
Book– The Hawa Mahal Murders
Previous Works– Debut Novel
Publishers– Vishwakarma Publications
Number of Pages– 286
It was an old building in Mumbai, a wretched imitation of Hawa Mahal. Built by a rich jeweller as homage to his adulterated love. It wasn’t cursed but it might as well have been. Bad deeds don’t go unpunished. Forbidden love extracts a price.
This is a story about a blackmailer and serial killer hiding in plain sight.
It is also a story about Smita, a troubled housewife trapped in a bad marriage, and about Jai, an honest police officer desperate to prove himself, but stymied at every step by a crooked boss and a corrupt system. When a series of murders take place in a posh locality in Mumbai, Jai watches with horror as his colleagues scramble to save the Chief Minister’s son and frame an innocent man. As the body count rises, he has to ask himself whether he has what it takes to catch the killer. Smita, struggling to come to terms with the dark secrets in her husband Karan’s mysterious past, gets sucked into a world of deceit and treachery. Unsure of whom to trust, she must first fight her own inner demons before she can save herself.
The Hawa Mahal Murders by Nita J Kulkarni is a crime thriller, revolving around the lives of the residents of a modern day replica of Hawa Mahal in Mumbai.
The murders start right after Smita’s family move in to a posh locality where stands a building looking rundown from the exterior but doable from the inside. A broken Smita, healing from the torments of her first marriage, doubtful about the future of her second marriage and concerned about her growing children, finds herself in the midst of confusion. Being the calm woman she is, she investigates the matter at hand when given the chance and regrets the outcome.
Jai, an IPS officer, struggling to come in terms with the corrupted seniors at work, who are hell bent on framing an innocent to shut the case, has to resist the charms of glamour and risk his career for the sake of his justice.
A building that has aligned all individuals with cursed fate, for the things they have done and the things they have seen.
The book takes you for a ride, with eerie revelations when you aren’t expecting those. Every character has a story. All stories are interwoven. And the best part, the narration still doesn’t confuse you. I have read many thrillers where the authors try to confuse the readers for the sake of keeping the suspense, which usually adds to frustration. Here, I am glad I did not experience that. You don’t get confused while reading it because there are no attempts of adding complexity just for the sake of it.
The author, Nita J Kulkarni, opted for keeping the readers hooked by revealing the history of the characters. The Raju bhai Jewels, the affairs, the Hawa Mahal and everyone else had an impressive story to share. They were not that important for the plot, but they provided a good pass time for the reader until the killer was revealed.
My favorite part was when there were too many people at the crime scene when the original crime occurred, with no proof of anyone’s innocent, with just one’s word against the other.
Nita J Kulkarni has the gift of storytelling that would make you want complete the book in a single sitting and still come back for more. A burning example of her versatility can be seen in the conversations between Smita and her neighbor Neera. The character Smita, is a woman of class and composure, while Neera is just a woman next door, blinded by the glitz and glamour of Ishita Rao’s life. During their conversations, the author effortlessly jumps from one character to another keeping Neera’s meddling attitude in mind, while Smita minds her own business. The difference in the choice of words for both the women keep the differences in their characters alive.
Cover- 3.5 stars
Title- 4 stars
Blurb- 4 stars
Plot- 3 star
Writing and Presentation- 4 star
Overall- 3.7 stars out of 5
The plot isn’t much to ponder upon. The killer isn’t someone with his roots deep in the history of the Hawa Mahal. It would have been a glorious end, had there been some real connection, something to make the readers go into shock.
If you break down the plot into subplots, the book doesn’t have much to offer. It’s the author’s amazing writing that keeps you hooked. You won’t feel like anything’s out of place until you are finished with the book and decide to go over the happenings. You can read and re-read the book, even if the plot isn’t that great and still enjoy the book, solely because of Nita J Kulkarni’s writing.
There were a lot of characters and secrets which could have been skipped, because in the end, all of them end in either a cliffhanger or something not worth mentioning, like the case of the missing jewels.
There were too many characters to keep the track of, and all of them had their part to play. You don’t notice it while reading the book, because the presentation holds all your attention, but after it all ends, the characters did not have a satisfactory end.
Reviewed by– Banaja Prakashini
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About the Author-
Nita J Kulkarni is a journalist and writer who has worked for almost all major publications in India, either fulltime or as a freelancer. Writing fiction and newspaper features with equal ease, the Pune-based writer is also a hand-reader. She can be contacted through her website: https://www.nitajatarkulkarni.com/