Review of ‘The Death of Kirti Kadakia’ by Meeti Shroff-Shah: an all too neat page-turner 

Shroff-Shah understands the pleasure of voyeurism one seeks in scandal

Updated - July 22, 2022 12:08 pm IST

Published - July 22, 2022 10:27 am IST

There is much to like in Meeti Shroff-Shah’s detective novel, The Death of Kirti Kadakia. Unfolding like an Agatha Christie mystery, the book delivers on pace, plot and climax.

The murder of an upper-class Gujarati businessman living with his large family in a posh Mumbai neighbourhood leads us into a world crafted with fine details. So while finding the culprit remains the driving force that drives the plot, the narrative is layered by explicating both the opulence and the ugliness of richness itself. The building and dismantling of reputation, the many tactics of respectable survival, and anxieties that brew quietly underneath furniture and upholstery — they all come together to create a story that is as immersive as it is entertaining.

Read | How do arranged marriages still hold sway in urban India? — Meeti Shroff-Shah speaks up in Know Any Good Boys? 

Radhika Zaveri, an amateur detective bent on solving the case, is the protagonist. Of course, she too, like many detectives in popular culture, has a troubled past which is left behind in New York. In Mumbai, Zaveri’s attention is caught by the death of her friend Sanjana’s father. It is an event which offers her a purpose. Through her, we meet the Kadakias, and through them, the many stories of aspirations, affairs, bickering and betrayal.

The Death of Kirti Kadakia
Meeti Shroff-Shah

Shroff-Shah understands the pleasure of voyeurism which one seeks in scandal (preferably upper-class scandal) and she gives it to her readers in this neat page-turner. The climax is well worth the time one puts in reading, and the because the book holds attention so well, one may not even realise the time that passes from the first page to the last. Also noteworthy is the delightful importance accorded to food in a detective novel. Notwithstanding its many evident merits, one cannot but comment on the formal safety of the book. The narrative is perhaps too neat. The police is inept beyond redemption, the intimate society ambience is an all-too willing nod to Christie’s style. The book offers rich treatment, for which praise is warranted, but it offers it to a compositional formula, against which this critique is levelled.

On the other hand, what shines is the characterisation and our detective’s ability to navigate spaces. The novel comes to us as ‘a Temple Hill mystery’, the first of hopefully a series, and this reviewer wishes that the subsequent books may challenge the safety of this one.

The reviewer is the author of travel memoir Tales of Hazaribagh: An Intimate Exploration of Chhotanagpur Plateau.

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