Sitharaam Jayakumar is a good story teller. His e-book, Eighty Hours to Save Karen, kept me hooked so much so that I read it in one go this morning. It is the story of Air Commodore Mathew Williams’ single-minded efforts to save his granddaughter Karen Lakshmi who has been afflicted with a mysterious illness. Karen is the last member of the family left to him.
The mystery revolves round the few people who lived in Mathew’s house before he bought it in an auction. All those people perished too in rather tragic circumstances some of which were their own making. Their gardener survives to tell their tale. And the gardener has one trick too many up his sleeve.
Mathew lives in Kimnur, a remote village in Himachal Pradesh and the story revolves round his house there though he has to drive to Shimla and fly to Mumbai within the eponymous 80 hours in order to connect the necessary threads in the plot. Finally all the loose ends are brought together to take the plot to its necessary climax and resolve the mystery.
Jayakumar brings some interesting nuances to the plot by referring to satanic cults and witchcraft though they don’t play any major role in the development apart from revealing the character of a chief player in the game. There is a touch of science fiction too when the antagonist’s motives are revealed.
As a debut novel, Eighty Hours to Save Karen is a promising work. The author is able to retain the reader’s attention till the end – well, almost to the end, because there is a little anticlimactic add-on in the last two chapters which could have been avoided by making a few tweaks to the plot.
Average readers of suspense thrillers and crime fiction may not look for much by way of characterisation. Nevertheless characterisation plays an important role in making a novel impressive. Jayakumar could have done a better job at that, I think. The negative characters in the novel emerge as pretty convincing and impressive while the positive ones are too good, almost angelic, to enchant the reader. Heroes must have feet of clay in order to leave their marks on the readers. Angels belong to the other world and are of little interest to intelligent readers.
Anyone interested in suspense thrillers and crime fiction will find Jayakumar’s novel good for a quick read. The book is available for free download here.