Pink candies in a thriller. Review of ‘Catching the Departed’

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She put her hands around him and looked into his eyes. Andy’s instincts took over. He kissed the pink candies gently at first and then passionately as she played on. Her lips had a tremble of submission in them which gave him greater pleasure and he…

Now that I have your attention, let me just say that ‘Catching the Departed’ is not about pink candies and Kulpreet Yadav isn’t the sort of detective thriller writer stuffing his book with sensually titillating paragraphs.

So what sort of a writer is he? Well, I can tell you what his book is not… the book isn’t anything like one of the thriller movies that Bollywood makes where the tempo is periodically interrupted by some inane song-and-dance or tear-jerker scene or plagued by long terminally ill melodrama. No, I also don’t mean that it is one of those books where you ‘felt trapped in a computer game with virtual enemies, who had no emotions; but they could kill. And if he killed them, they didn’t know the pain because they never existed in reality. Everything around him was virtual.’ Every moment I spent reading this book made me feel as real as real can be… in fact, there were moments of extreme disconcert because I knew that what I was reading was probably happening somewhere in some corner of the country. 

Andy Karan is the fictional character who doesn’t come out as a super hero but certainly as someone who readers will remember long after the book is read… only time will tell if Andy too will have some director making him as immortal as Byomkesh Bakshi. We find Andy even wanting to ‘shed a tear, but like always, he couldn’t. Men never cry, his Army trainers had taught him.’ This novel is about how Andy, the investigative journalist, finds himself ‘at the centre of it all – the terrorists, IB, the tricked magazine, and the government’ and resolutely goes from one intrigue to another apparently unsolvable clue to solve a mystery as plausibly as a real reader of thrillers expect it to be solved.

Now if you think he went around page after page doing his job of discovering crime in a very clinically monotonous way, you need to think again. Andy does have his share of frights, fights, and horrendous nights that include the times when Dewanchand leads a few villagers and some men ‘pushed the door a few times and finally, it gave way. On a charpoy in the courtyard sat a dazed Andy, his hands tied behind, his mouth taped. Next to him, on the ground, was Gulabo, her eyes half open.’ Nothing can be more real than the protagonist of a detective thriller thanking others for saving his life. But then, these are just some of the reasons we start loving Andy.

This is one book where you wouldn’t really hate the villain as well because, after all, ‘detonating the bomb was not in the original plan’ though now ‘he somehow wanted to go ahead and do it.’ The villain knew ‘what a dirty bomb could do if detonated successfully’ but besides death of innocents, he now wanted ‘the nation’s economy affected irreversibly’ and he believed that there ‘was no such jail anywhere in the world that could contain him. He had money and, therefore, unlimited power. Greedy politicians could be bought easily. He had several of them in his pocket already.’ These plans were of course only the pipe dreams of a doomed villain… especially because Andy Karan was ‘too deep in this whole mess to back away now.’

Every incident that happens in the book rings true. This is vital because when I am reading a thriller I am imagining I am Andy Karan… and besides imagining his titillating pink candies scene with Monica, the editor, I actually love to imagine doing things that sound credible. Even in my imagination I never see myself jumping from the tenth floor and surviving or battling against a dozen terrorists with LMGs and managing to kill them all with just pistol with a few 9mm bullets or just a katana or a machete! Andy, thankfully, does things that are plausible and doesn’t ask you to stretch your imagination beyond wild borders. But it isn’t just the meandering truth in the narration that always matters. What matters is the simplicity of expression. Look, I don’t need to use obfuscating words and expressions, and I don’t need to push in massive tomes of research that the net has made so easy, to write a thriller that thrills. And this thriller thrills because it keeps moving without pauses that make your attention waver. This thriller moves without transforming its protagonist into a pompous prig who has an entire battalion of helpers and truckloads of sophisticated gadgetry. This thriller moves without leaping on a trampoline to reach new heights in mind-boggling details about the socio-economic state of the world and without making every politician and bureaucrat sound and look like a grovelling alley cat. This thriller just moves.

Yes sir, this thriller just moves. What more do you want?

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Book details:
Title: Catching the Departed
Author: Kulpreet Yadav
Publisher: Tara India Research Press
ISBN: 978-81-8386-066-6
Price: Rs 299/- (in 2015)

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Pink candies in a thriller. Review of ‘Catching the Departed’

Pink candies in a thriller. Review of ‘Catching the Departed’

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Arvind Passey
21 April 2015