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When truth is stranger than fiction

Monday, August 23, 2010

Black Light by Rimi B. Chatterjee is a superb mystery novel that was ten full years in the making. It started off with a different title, ‘Live like a Flame,’ and since then the book and the author have come a long way. Understandably, the story and the skills got honed, and Black Light is really an excellent book.

Satyasandha Sarkar, ace journalist turned news desk man at a English daily in Kolkata, is busy putting stories together and releasing the pages, when he gets a call from home.

His distraught mother informs that his aunt, Medhasri Sen, who is her elder sister, has been found dead under mysterious circumstances. Though the family has managed to get her out of the morgue and to the crematorium, without the hassles of a post-mortem and a police enquiry, evidence points out to suicide. The family is however content to speculate that Medhasri must have slipped and fallen from the veranda while watering her plants. The fact that she didn’t have need to water the plants because it was raining is overlooked. She was after all an eccentric. But Medhasri turns out to be anything but that.

This becomes clear when an envelope is discovered atop a refrigerator, addressed to Satya in Medha mashis flourishing handwriting. The cover contains a card advertising a BNR Hotel in Puri and a piece of paper with ‘a pencil sketch, startlingly lifelike as only a pencil sketch can be, of Satya sitting in an old-fashioned easy chair on a veranda, condensation beading on a cool drink by his side, and in the background a spray of bougainvillea, an ancient locomotive fixed in a concrete bed, a portion of curving beach. In the drawing, a breeze lifted his hair and ruffled the curtains of the room just visible through the open doorway behind him, next to a framed picture on the wall.’

A puzzled Satya wonders whether his aunt has been trying to communicate with him through her notes and sketches. Is there a secret, the edge of an enigma? He decides to go across to Puri to find out.

The trail of clues leads him to five different places, where he finds fantastic artworks revealing her artistic genius. They also unravel the secrets of her life and her death.

Black Light by Rimi B. Chatterjee

Price Rs.299

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