Book Reviews

A Death in the Himalayas by Udayan Mukherjee

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.

I’m a huge fan of crime fiction and I’m always on the lookout for new ones to read. While I know several great crime novels exist in my native tongue, Tamil, I’ve read very few English crime fiction books set in India. When PacMacmillan India reached out to me about reviewing this book, I jumped at the opportunity.

Goodreads synopsis:

A Death in the Himalayas: A Neville Wadia Mystery

Why would anyone kill a well-meaning foreigner like Clare Watson in a quiet neighbourhood in the foothills of the Himalayas?
Yes, Clare was a fearless woman. But why would she venture into the dark forest after sundown knowing it fully well as leopard habitat? When a celebrity author-activist is found battered in a Himalayan forest spring, the event resounds internationally. India jumps into headlines once again as a country that is unsafe for women. Closer home, the tragedy divides the sleepy village into gentle folk who mourn the dreadful passing of their dear friend and the motivated elite who believe she was begging for trouble. As Neville Wadia picks his way through the blood-splattered hills of Birtola, he begins to unpack the deadly truth that killed Clare, only to realize there are other tender lives at stake.
What kind of killer is at work here: a jealous lover, a dejected husband, a sharp land grabber, a wily politician or a disgruntled local? Tense and atmospheric, a Death in the Himalayas is a mesmerizing mystery about the little-known intimacies of an idyllic locale.

Review:

The sleepy little village of Birtola at the foothills of the Himalayas wakes up one morning to the gruesome murder of their resident social justice warrior, Clare Watson. Retired cop Neville Wadia is called upon to help the local police force and speed up the investigation, especially considering the mounting international pressure. How Neville solves the case and also confronts the demons of his past in the process forms the rest of the story.

I’ve always hated the Dead Woman trope. You know, the books that open with one dead woman, probably someone who was the local darling who almost everyone loved. And it’s up to the male lead with his own inner demons to solve the case. I hate this trope because it’s more about the male lead and his detection skills than the dead woman.

A Death in the Himalayas also follows the Dead Woman trope, but with a twist. Here, the dead woman also has quite a lot of enemies. It’s fortuitous that Neville Wadia, revered retired cop from Mumbai, also happens to live in the same village, because he decides to help the cops crack this case.

The whodunnit is quite interesting, especially considering there are a lot of suspects with both the motive and non-existent alibis. But crime fiction junkies will surely crack this one halfway through the book–I know I did!

And now to the negatives…

The investigating cop is totally fine with letting Neville handle the reins of this one. Sure, Neville used to be great at his job, but would an actual cop be okay with merely tagging along and taking a backseat? This felt quite unrealistic, even for fiction. He also has way too much admiration for Neville. All Neville does is ask a suspect routine questions and this guy goes on an inner monologue about how brilliant an investigator Neville is. *cue eye roll*

While Mukherjee has done a great job describing the Himalayan scenery, the writing itself was more “telling” than “showing”. The main character actually says “I am distressed to see her like this” at one point, showing how contrived the dialogue in this novel is.

Despite the negatives, A Death in the Himalayas is an entertaining read. This short whodunnit can be finished in a day or two, especially if the weather outside is chilly and you’re craving a good mystery. And it’s the first book in a series! I hope the second book doesn’t have similar writing to this one, because I definitely want to check it out!

Rating: 3 out of 5


~ Shruti

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