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Book of Thrillers


Book Review

In spite of the common theme – thrillers – that holds fifteen short stories together, this slim volume is beyond easy classification. You enter a phantasmagorical world as you open this book. Restless ghosts and souls in search of redemption will jolt you in some of the stories. Quest for justice and thirst for revenge are recurring themes. Blood is spilt on many pages. Love yearns to blossom on a few pages.

These are all stories written by bloggers who have made their mark in their own characteristic ways. These 15 bloggers are brought together by a community known as Blogchatter which supports and inspires bloggers in many ways. As a member of that community, I’d readily agree with Blogchatter’s claim in the introduction to this book: “This book isn’t just about the 15 authors who have contributed their stories but also the rest of the community who are the wind beneath their wings.”

I would like this review to look at each of the stories, albeit briefly, because I know most of these writers through their blogs.

In the first story, Against My Windowpane, Rehana Sultana narrates the tale of a young female doctor who couldn’t save the life of a patient afflicted with placental abruption. Her death and the concomitant loss of the infant she gave birth to have traumatic impacts on the bereaved husband as well as the protagonist doctor. Ghostly memories haunt the doctor’s windowpane.

Anuradha Shetty takes us to the pre-Independence India with its obnoxious caste system and the heartless exploitation of the lower caste people. Meet 14-year-old Radha who is kept hidden in the attic to protect her from the rapacious  Sahukar whose wife Ratnavati is a victim of patriarchal oppression. India is soon going to be independent. “Will India’s freedom make Sahukar pay for his wrong actions?” The narrator asks Ratnavati whose answer will resound menacingly even in today’s India: “You are all crazy. The truth is that there is no freedom, Raghu. There is No Freedom.”

Revenge is the theme of Roma Gupta Sinha’s story, The Secrets of Nandini Rutuja. The eponymous protagonist is a 16-year-old girl who hasn’t stepped out of her room in the last two-and-a-half years. Why did this “flamboyant chirpy little girl” turn an aggressive reclusive? Well, that’s what the story is about.

Kajal Kapur will send a shiver down your spine with her story of Reva, a reporter who is attacked while covering the clashes outside Jamia Milia Islamia, Delhi. The comatose Reva becomes pregnant while being treated in a hospital. How? You are welcome to find out in Mermory's Missing Piece.

Cinderella returns in Deepti Menon’s tale of a young girl who is adopted by Basab Chatterjee’s household. This little protagonist goes through far more than her fairy tale counterpart did. There is retribution in the end, however. Interestingly, Deepti’s style has a touch of the fairy tale. Sample this: “What was that whisper under her window, akin to the rustling of leaves, a sibilant hiss?”

The theme of revenge scales a new peak in Chinmayee Sahu’s story, The Encounter. Notorious gangster Chota Bhai is decimated in an encounter by two police officers. One of the officers is found “lying in a pool of blood, his body exactly at the same spot where Chota Bhai was found three years ago.” And the other officer? Chinmayee weaves some classic suspense into her narrative of the three deaths.

Huma Masood's  Fragments of Yesterday presents the spine-chilling story of a woman who lost her memory in a fatal accident and is tryig to remember her past.

The Fields by Nirmiti Narain is an out-of-the-ordinary tale. What about a scarecrow that falls in love with a crow? Add a touch of the supernatural to that, a bhoot and a chudail. Nirmiti succeeds spectacularly in creating the apt setting with such descriptions as: “The corn is sublime, dramatic and glows gold when the sun strikes. The okra is lush, haughty, cold, and mesmerizingly green” and “The peepul trees in the distance are coated with dust. Yet they look so pretty.”

Tarang Sinha’s One Night is an unforgettable night. “I am standing at the bridge; my eyes are fixed on the gurgling waterbody flowing beneath. The only sounds audible in this eerily silent night are my ragged breaths, my beating heart that has lost all hope, and the howling water.” The narrator is contemplating suicide. But then appears a girl with “white, waxy skin,” taking the narrator and us towards a blood-curdling climax.  

The most terrifying story in the collection is Anushree Saha’s The Dactyist. Here is a woman whose hobby is collecting fingerprints of people who end up in their graves too soon. Fingerprints are as innocent as confetti and we leave them around all over. What we don’t realise is that we are leaving a piece of ourselves behind. Anushree’s protagonist loves to pick up those pieces to our horror and even revulsion.

Black colour becomes a powerful metaphor in Alpna Das Sharma’s story Black. India is a country that has discriminated against women in many ways. Alpna’s story reminds us eloquently of denial of education to girls, child marriage, the Sati system, and so on. It is a cruel world for girls and women. A black world. This world is presented by the author with the psychedelic effect of a Kalbeliya dance which has a symbolic presence in the story.

The cruellest story in the volume, I’d say, is Rahul Vishnoi’s A husband’s guide to set a wife right. Vidhaan knows how to make his wife toe the line drawn by him. Unfortunately, the lines don’t belong to human civilisation. This story reeks of savagery with the stench of burnt flesh buffeting our sensibility in addition to our olfactory sense. This story left me not a little disturbed.

The theme of revenge returns in Harshita Nanda’s The Silver Anklet. A supernatural element adds a quaint dimension to the plot. The setting is another aspect that renders a mystifying aura to the story. A man rents room 213 in a dilapidated building ‘that masquerades as a guesthouse” on the bank of the “inky black” Ganga which has washed away too many sins already. And now it is going to wash away one more sin.

Roshan Radhakrishnan’s story What Runs in Our Blood takes us back to Kerala of pre-Independence days when the caste system was practised brutally. The Brahmin priest in this story has perpetrated more heinous crimes than atrocities on lower caste people. Here is a British woman who comes in the shape of vampire to wreak vengeance on the priest who carried hatred in his blood instead of the spark of the divine. Roshan’s story brings the East and the West together in a strange amalgam.

The last story, written by Suchita Agarwal, is a kind of spiritual or metaphysical allegory. Hartoli is the guardian of a land that is in perpetual grey darkness. The sun never enters this land. Nor does the moon. Hartoli’s duty, which he carries out meticulously, is to ferry dead people from one shore to the next. Tragedy strikes him one day. Hartoli is now a transformed person and the change isn’t for the better.

All the stories are quite brief – just a few hundred words each. Most of them are driven by some sort of supernatural or paranormal phenomenon. As the title of the collection tells, these stories are all thrillers. In the process of focussing on suspense and drama, many of the writers forgot to make the characters memorable.

Blogchatter and Readomania are doing a commendable job bringing writers together in anthologies such as this.

Copies of this book are available on Amazon.

PS. This review is powered by Blogchatter Book Review Program

Comments

  1. While the plot and characterisation might appear weak, I.think the focus was more on word.count and capturing the thrill in that. I think the book succeeds there, though fiction readers might seek heavier reading for more impact. In my case, am not a fan of horror stories so this length appeared fine.

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  2. Thank you for reading and reviewing and I am glad you found my story the cruelest. 😅

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    Replies
    1. That story is quite disconcerting. But I'm sure there are readers who like such stories.

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  3. Thanks a lot for the review and the special mention, Sir 🙏🏻 It means a lot to me to be reviewed by you!

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    Replies
    1. Delighted to hear this, Chinmayee. All the best to you.

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  4. Some excellent insights that I must ruminate upon. Thank you for that wonderful review.

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    Replies
    1. Your story made me go back to it a number of times. Even now I'm not sure I got the essence of it.

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  5. Thank you for sharing a glowing review of our anthology.

    Grateful that my story found a mention in it.

    I am glad you enjoyed reading my story. I agree that some story elements could have been developed further. However, due to the word limit, I focused on twists and turns.

    Appreciate your valuable time and feedback.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, working with word limit and other restrictions is hard and some aspects will be affected adversely.

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  6. Thank you so much for this wonderful, detailed review. 🙏🏼

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  7. Agree with your review. The stories shouldn't have had any word count or other restrictions...

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  8. Thank you for the review. I am so glad you liked my story.

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  9. Your review is always a handy guide for all the book lovers. I liked how you mentioned the stories and highlighted their strengths. Being read and reviewed by you means a lot, and moreover, the way you encourage the authors, is a treat to all authors. Thank you, Sir. - Swarnali Nath (The Blissful Storyteller)

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