The Shrine of Death by Divya Kumar is a captivating crime thriller with all essential elements that perfectly define this genre. Like most other famous crime thrillers of Agatha Christie and Colin Dexter, this book too opens up with the name of the victim. Not so directly, but as we read, it becomes clear in couple of chapters as who is at the receiving end. But how it did all happen and who all were behind the curtains, fills up the story. The salient feature of these kinds of novels is that you cannot skip a single page; you never know what clue you may lose in the process.
Talking about this book, we see quite a number of characters, well that’s important to cook up the story up to a sizzling point. But we cannot leave behind the characters that are, in a true sense, nudging the story ahead all the time. We see Prabha Sinha as the main character of the book, as it is she who actuates the investigation in all ways. Next, we meet Jai – a simple guy with a very disturbed past. From the police side, we have inspector Gerard Ratnaraj from the Idol Wing, CID. He seems to be a typical larger-than-life character, but his involvement in solving the case is limited as compare to involvement of other characters. Apart from these three important characters, we also see some more. Understanding the cast of characters is critical to the overall understanding of the crime novel. Otherwise readers may grope for their idiosyncrasies and get befuddled as who is going where and why. On the positive side, if we find a little more characters, then the blame game or suspect circle gets bigger – this is sheer fun at its level best. You might feel the same with this novel. Fingers crossed!
The story is based around ‘idol theft’. This part takes us to the roles played by the victim Sneha Pillai – who goes missing unexpectedly. Sneha is a friend of Prabha. One day Prabha gets phone from Sneha and thereafter the former comes out of her reveries and comfort zone and begins searching for her – probably she is concerned about Sneha.
Sneha is a PHD student in history, while doing research she comes across two priceless bronzes from the 10th century. Sneha wants to have a positive and authentic stance on her discovery, but sadly the world seems to be an obstacle in her way. She disappears without leaving much trail.
Other than murder and theft mystery, we also get chance to see the human emotions when Jai, Prabha, and Gerard form a love triangle. There is a lot of substance between them and it keeps the story steering from one side to another, it literally takes you on an emotional roller coaster ride. Owing to Sneha we see many characters come in the limelight – they all have some sort of terrific sweeps, they seem interconnected but yet miles apart.
You can read the crime thrillers leisurely, page after page, one clue after another, one suspect’s intricacies leading into some other’s den. This way we keep building and losing our excitement till we finish the book. That’s beauty and Divya Kumar has delivered the scene after scene perfectly. The novel moves at a brisk pace and it looks as the story is building itself. If you love unhurried crime thrillers where murders, betrayals, redemption play their part in equal glory, you must pick up this book. Other than the contemporary setting of Tamil Nadu, the novel has healthy snatches of history as well. Give it a try….you will relish it.