Contrasting to the bright red design cover of Komarraju's debut novel which screamed murder announced, it is the title of the second book that would grab your attention. Questions would spring up in your head that would demand to be answered and the crisp preview on the back cover will inflame your curiosity more.
The story revolves around the supposed accidental death of Kauveramma, a rich woman at the head of a large family, benefactor of many generations but at the same time a source of grudge to nearly all the family members in one way or the other.
It was the way of her ‘accidental death’ that arose questions otherwise, because drowning in a well was highly unlikely for a woman who was so terrified of water that she didnt eevn go near it. Drawn into submission by her grandson Koteswar Rao’s request for further investigation, Inspector Valmiki Nagarajan was forced to approach Hamid Pasha, an elderly Muslim reformed criminal with previous associations with the Inspector.
One question leads to the other and the duo find themselves amidst a highly complicated maze of family drama, lies and hatred. As the mystery deepens, it comes out that every single member of the family had something to gain from the old woman’s death and evidently, each one had a motive, opportunity and temperament to do her in.
Banquet on the dead, running along the lines of a classic murder mystery has a better story than Komarraju's first book. The plot is well thought of and well executed; there are enough questions that would keep your grey cells entertained throughout the 262 page long story.
The brains of the duo, Hamid Pasha is a well etched character- eccentric and poetic, funny and charming, and thoroughly mysterious with his sudden out of the box questions. The interrogations with the different family members, the emotions it brought out, and the connections between the various accounts of the incident keep the story going with a definite pace.
Other characters in the story are etched in detail too; the family feuds and animosities are well brought out. The story is interesting throughout with small puzzle pieces cropping up now and then and complicating the mystery even more.
What I liked about the story was the intricate detailing into the characters- something characteristic of Komarrraju.Hamid Pasha as the detective is interesting and I would certainly look forward to more stories with him in action. The delightful details over things like the habits of old Brahmin women, places of Warangal, the story of art theaters if Hyderabad adds a definite charm to the story.
What didn’t tick off well with me was the vague motive behind death of the women. For a well executed plot with decent motives awarded to each member of the family, the actual drive for murder at the end was a disappointment. I had to check twice to see if I missed the motive behind the crime but it seems as if the motive was missed out by the author himself and there are several unanswered questions in your mind at the end.
Also, having read scores of detective mysteries made my mind point out towards the criminal halfway down the story which didnt dampen the reading experience though; I had to prove myself right in the end :D
Overall the book is a fine read- good language, good dialogues, detailed characters and a fairly good plot would make me round up the review with a rating of 7/10 . Mystery lovers wishing to try Indian mysteries should definitely go for this one.
You can read the prologue of the story here.