The Sanguinarian

The Sanguinarian

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Review- A Minute to Death by Ganga Bharani

Blurb: Young, vivacious and an aspiring writer, Riya wants nothing more from her longtime crush/boyfriend than to let her in on one of his exciting investigations. After all, what better source material for a book than a real life tragedy? No-nonsense veteran cop, Rohan picks a case of probable suicide to satisfy Riya’s needs. Little does he know that there is more to this case than meets the eye. What made the victim hang herself at the break of dawn? What is the secret that her group of friends is hiding? Will Riya be able to salvage a workable plot for her upcoming novel out of this case of seemingly simple suicide?

Writing a book is a tough job. One gives their sweat, blood and time to finish a manuscript, then through the rigmarole of editing, multiple drafts and beta reading, and then readying the book for publication. Finding the right publisher and getting accepted is another task altogether.
The world judges a book by its cover. I don't judge a book at all. I live it, love it and breathe it.
Ganga Bharani's second baby is good. I am not saying it's not.
But as an avid reader of crime fiction and suspense novels, there are some things I have picked up about writing a crime novel from the greats like Sir Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie and James Patterson and others.
1. Not everyone can condense a crime story into a 100 pages and still manage a credible tone throughout. One does it only after extensive practice. Some good examples of the perfect crime novella would be Patricia Highsmith's Strangers on a Train, and Agatha Christie's A Murder is Announced. In this case, the author should have stuck to writing a longer version- a novel.
2. I liked the theme of the novel- an aspiring crime novelist going to crime scenes to do some research for her book. I also liked the way the relation between Rohan and Riya has been portrayed. What I didn't find convincing, however, is the dialogue between them- it sounds phony and sketchy.
3. Also, Rohan spends more time playing Romeo than doing his job, working the case. Cops don't have that sort of time, underpaid and overworked as they are. They don't have the leisure to hang out in coffee shops with their girlfriends. In a romantic suspense, the romance should be very carefully interspersed with the main crime story-especially in a police procedural.
4. The novel should have been, ideally, a 200 plus page affair, where the psyche of the killer, the media attention the murders garnered and the impact of the killings on the cops investigating and the victims' families should have been explored. I would suggest that the author, apart from reading extensively, watch crime shows like Criminal Minds, CSI, True Detective and Castle to learn more about handling the various aspects of a crime story in a novel form.
5. I liked the idea of how Riya uses analytical software to study the social media profiles of the victims. I also like how the suspense builds up, but the ending sounds contrived. That's why, the novel should have been longer so that the climax had looked inevitable and logical rather than forced. 97 pages leave no meat of a story for a crime novel aficionado to chew. A good story, with great potential, comes to an incipient-looking ending- like when you immerse firecrackers in water.

That covered, let me now come to my biggest problem with the story- language, the big L. And, of course, grammar. It goes without saying that there are errors in grammar and punctuation- in almost every line. And the prose is languid and flaccid and uninspiring. What is inspiring prose? It's prose that not only ignites the reader's imagination, but also makes one want to write. This prose just made me want to edit and re-write the entire book- my entire reading experience was hampered.
It shows that inspite of having potential, the author didn't even self-edit. She hasn't read extensively in the crime genre, and also hasn't practiced writing enough- two VITAL instruments in any writer's toolkit. Perhaps she hasn't gone through the whetting process any writer must go through- writing  practice, getting the work critiqued by fellow writers, then finishing her first draft, rewriting, editing, and then getting feedback from beta readers, then readying the novel for submission to publishers. Having read hundreds of books, I can tell.

As a writer myself, I wrote, got my work critiqued, then wrote more and got more feedback from other writers for three years before my books got accepted. And today, I find myself a much better writer than what I was 3 years back.
The author's work is still in the preliminary stage, where it needs extensive whetting to mature.

Because a writer's work DOESN'T start and end at publication.

It starts with extensive reading, grows with extensive writing and critique, spreads through publication and never ends.

You can buy the book here: A Minute to Death

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