As The Millennium Series became a worldwide phenomenon, it almost became a fashion for new writers to write a psychological thriller; however, it’s not an easy genre to probe into. To quote Wikipedia, ‘Psychological thriller is a thriller story which emphasizes the psychology of its characters and their unstable emotional states.’ Psychological thrillers delve deep into the dark recesses of the minds of characters and bring out their fears, phobias, feelings et cetera and indulge in mental games, deception to take the plot forward rather than the physical action. Although not a new genre, it is almost non-existent in Indian popular fiction.
Sourabh Mukherjee’s debut novel, In the Shadows of Death is also an attempt to explore the psychological thriller genre. The book begins with the murder of Sheetal Mishra, an HR executive who is found dead in the lavatory of a hotel. Assigned to the case is Inspector Agni Mitra, an efficient, dedicated and honest police officer. Following the trail of clues, Mitra finds the husband, the obvious murder suspect until the murder of Meenakshi Menon. Soon the investigation turns into a hunt for a serial killer set loose in the streets of Kolkata and Agni Mitra’s struggle against time to catch the ruthless killer and take him off the streets of Kolkata.
The book begins on a promising note, with elements of suspense and thrill; however it soon turns out to be banal with stereotypical portrayal of characters; bad marriage, jilted lover, cheating wife, wronged friend, indifferent husband and the like. The very portrayal of Sheetal Mitra, the first victim gives an impression to the reader that the victim deserved the death she was put to.
As a female reader, what strikes me the most about the book is the portrayal of women in general, the violence against them is not just physical; it is permeated in the very structure of the book as it is infused in the very outlook of society towards women. The book is replete with women who are ‘adulteresses’, ‘wanton’, ‘wayward’ et cetera. As opposed to women who are almost always infidel, men are portrayed as honorable and upright.
As a psychological thriller, In the Shadows of Death is a simplistic study of the psyche of the characters including the killer. Cliched to the last detail, the author never endeavors toward exploring the complexities of the minds of the characters that shapes their personality and the resultant conflict in the book. The author commences with a promise, only to whiz out the potential as he rushes the plot and stereotypes the characters.
Title: In the Shadows of Death
Author: Sourabh Mukherjee
Publisher: Srishti Publishers & Distributors
P.S.: A review copy of the book had been sent by the publisher in return of an honest and unbiased review