Mehool Parekh’s debut novel titled “Bhoot Bhavish Bartaman” was released PAN India to overwhelmingly positive reviews. At a time when crime thriller genre is still burgeoning, yet to be explored to its full capacity, this novel is a welcome addition to it. This book was featured in a solo reading session at Jaipur Book Mark Festival also. An interesting excerpt from it was read by Bollywood personality and Politician Vani Tripathi.
The story begins when a beautiful woman, seemingly happily married, is found murdered in her bedroom. The gruesome scene practically screams ‘overkill’ and demands questions about motive behind such an act of extreme passion. Usual suspects are brought in for questioning. The lead officer is eager to wrap it all up with a neat bow and be done with it. But is the case really that simple? Are circumstances as they appear or is there something entirely unrelated at play here? Who was the woman in reality? Did her past catch up to her or was it something in her present that prompted this abrupt, horrible end?
Army Major Bartaman “Batty” Bhowmick, is a voracious reader of mysteries. His oddball personality and candor makes him charming to some people and a nuisance to others. Batty’s mind craves reason and seeks to inspect everything beyond face value. Being an amateur sleuth with cutting intellect and perseverance in his quest for truth makes him an asset for his cousin, who is an ACP in the city Police force. Robin Chowdhury, whose keen intellect and attractive looks make her a complementary partner to Batty’s abrasive approach, is a technologically savvy crime beat reporter with Pune City Times. She and Batty set out to find answers to questions about the case that are yet to crop up. One after another, getting face to face with all the unusual suspects, they begin to unravel the mystery one thread at a time.
Reminiscent of breaking the fourth wall in cinema, the author here provides the victim a line of communication directly with the reader using a different timeline, which is easy to follow and at no point gets convoluted. Exploring the victim’s prior life, with no assistance from protagonists, begs the question if, at any point of time, the reader knows more than the investigators? And if they do, are they even aware of it? This approach offers the reader an opportunity to piece together all the information and investigate the case alongside Batty and Robin – a notion no doubt will please mystery enthusiasts.
The minor characters – thanks to their simple quirks and display of emotions – never feel like caricatures. Sure, they are not fleshed out but the fact that it’s Batty’s fifth case and he has interacted with these people before in some capacity gives hope that they will have more of a voice, a full-fledged personality, in prequels and sequels that are to certainly follow. The pacing never lags and is carefully peppered with tidbits of information throughout. Upon being asked if Byomkesh Bakshi was an inspiration, he says, “Byomkesh Bakshi was sort of an inspiration but not entirely. Bartaman Bhowmick is, unlike Byomkesh Bakshi, not a genius. He is just methodical, dogged, and refuses to take things at face value.”
It is clear that Mehool’s abundant knowledge in the fields of finance and entertainment helped him carry along this mystery. Mehool Parekh has, over time, worked in various financial sectors – from being an equity research head to a fund manager. He is currently a private equity investor in growth companies and owns a well-known media company. In between these ventures, he has dipped his toe in film production with the movie Rang Rasiya which was based on the life of Indian Painter Raja Ravi Verma and was directed by Ketan Mehta.
This crime mystery novel is an excellent choice to indulge your reader’s appetite and come out completely satiated on the other side. All the home-grown sleuths, with the curiosity of a cat and an insatiable reader’s appetite, will be waiting for another installment of our own hobby detective pairing of Batty and Robin.