The Premier Murder League
n R150 n pp 231
Deputy commissioner of police Ravi Sharma and his deputy Rahul Singh probe the mysterious death of sports minister and cricket board member SN Rao. The victim, administered poison through a paan laced with aconite tincture, before collapsing, manages to scribble ‘Cellphone taken, door locked’ on a wall. This should set the ball rolling for a page-turner? Not quite, if the thriller revolves around cricket inspired by real life.
What mars the promise of a potential good read for those who’ve grown up on James Hadley Chase like this reporter is a plot that hinges on a battle between two competitive cricket leagues: TLI and ITL. The original league, which fails to take off, has a cricket legend as one of its promoters. Get the hint? Nudge, nudge, the company behind the news channel that takes on the mighty cricket board is called Ex-el TV. Really imaginative! The board itself is named: Be Zee Zee I. Okay, I made the last one up.
Taking off with two ‘brilliant’ cops following a trail of corpses ostensibly linked to the murder of the sports minister, the storytelling is too simplistic. A TV journalist with a stake in undermining the cricket board tips the cops off and they play along, before realising they’ve played into his hands at the climax. And suddenly they turn the game around in the death with a dream spell Zaheer Khan would have been proud of.
In the initial chapters, the book doesn’t take off thanks to cliché-ridden sentences like ‘the minister’s death was only the tip of the iceberg’ and ‘The mood at the Feroze Shah Kotla was nothing short of carnivalesque’. So, to inject some energy, like a power play, the author introduces a series of thinly etched characters who disappear before you can say MS Dhoni.
Like a Yuvraj innings, the novel shines in patches. The doctor author’s insights into forensics and medicine should have given this thriller an edge. Unfortunately, the basic premise of two parallel cricket leagues makes the ending predictable.