The stories in Uday Gupt's debut collection Final Cut begin well and try to build the tension and the suspense, but they either lose steam midway or appear quite childish in the final denouement.
The collection tees off with Hodson's Gold, but it is way too wayward to be called a decent shot. The rudimentary rule about treasure-hunt-themed stories is that the reader must feel as if he, too, has joined the characters in their search for the valuables. Here, although too much time and detail are spent trying to crack a code that would lead to this British-era treasure hidden somewhere, the unravelling of it is described in such mathematical, clinical and uninteresting fashion that you cease to care. Instead of biting your nails you throw your hands up in despair. And when the location of the treasure is announced in literally the last sentence of the story, you are likely to say this out loud, "Really?" and I don't mean in wonder. The ending is abrupt and thoroughly exposes the inexperience of the writer.
Friends has good suspense but is let down again by its last sentence. I don't want to be a spoiler, but it seemed to me that the writer was trying to allude to some real-life incidents in the world of art that bear resemblance with the ones portrayed in the story. Sorry, I didn't get, and chances are, neither will you. If you do, I would actually be interested in knowing. But if you don't, like me, you will realise how frivolous it is. Also, the boxed newspaper reports will test your patience - I am not convinced newspaper language in bygone days was so pathetic. They are plain flabby.
The third story in the collection, It Happens Only in India, is a travesty to every journalist--let's not even talk about the ones who actually win the Pulitzer Prize. Even the laziest, the most half-witted (that is, if the writer wants to insist there are some like that) of scribes are smarter and more intelligent than the Pulitzer Prize-winning protagonist in this story. If the writer had spent even a day with a journalist before writing the story, he would not have committed the cardinal sins he has committed in this one - they are unmentionable.
After this I gave up; I confess I couldn't bear to read the other stories. Some overall points before finishing off: typos and grammatical mistakes are scattered across the pages. The language is at best school-boyish. I wouldn't recommend you pick this one up even to pass the time.
Final Cut by Uday Gupt, Frog Books, Rs. 195/ 302 pages