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The horror of it all: Review of Nikhil Pradhan’s ‘Yesterday’s Ghosts’

Nikhil Pradhan’s second novel, Yesterday’s Ghosts, is a pacy thriller about four former intelligence operatives and the circumstances that bring them back together after decades of no-contact. It mixes espionage with horror in a pared-down, sparse narrative. The interrogation format is used as the primary narrative device, interspersed with short spells of omniscient narration to ground the novel better.

Pradhan’s first book, Cold Truth, had a similar structure and his experimentation with the novel form stood out for diverting from conventional storytelling. Unfortunately, the experimental audacity of the first book becomes the second’s comfort zone.

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Familiar tropes

The interrogation rhetoric gets clichéd here, chock-a-block with familiar tropes like mysterious aliases, codes and locations. The minimalist narration too seems to suggest haste rather than restrain.

The horror of it all: Review of Nikhil Pradhan’s ‘Yesterday’s Ghosts’

The characters are stock: Castellan, the interrogator, speaks like a Netflix detective; Jodan the angry is always angry; Roy the pathetic acts pathetically; the mysterious ghost is simply mysterious. All these end up looking like cool tricks designed to stretch a flimsy premise.

That said, the book is not short of interesting elements. There is a strong cinematic quality to it. But nothing is developed properly enough to lend the book substance.

Pradhan’s eagerness to make the novel smart ends up making it formulaic. If it’s a page-turner it’s because one must turn the pages to finish the story.

Yesterday’s Ghosts; Nikhil Pradhan, Harper Black, ₹299

The reviewer is a poet from Jharkhand.

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Printable version | May 10, 2021 2:25:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/the-horror-of-it-all-review-of-nikhil-pradhans-yesterdays-ghosts/article33871072.ece

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