‘Voice of the Runes’ by Manjiri Prabhu: A pacy page-turner high on suspense

Nordic noir meets Dan Brown in this pacy thriller

Updated - May 12, 2022 04:04 pm IST

Published - February 02, 2019 04:00 pm IST

A learned professor, delivering a much-awaited lecture at Lund University, drops down dead in front of a packed hall. This death, a murder, is on Page 12. From there on, for the next 267 pages, it’s a gripping ride as Manjiri Prabhu takes the reader through kidnappings, arson, vandalism and yet another murder to arrive at a climax that startles as well as satisfies.

The looming threat to the very existence of the ancient university, and all that this liberal space signifies, is what investigative journalist Re Parkar tries to counteract as he follows clues laid out on rune stones. In this, he is helped by Magdalena Lindberg, the murdered professor’s assistant, and a runologist herself. As Re races against time to prevent Ragnarok from happening, a sense of foreboding and malevolence permeates the story, a sense that has much to do with its Nordic setting. Re has visions of evil corroding and destroying the hallowed Lund Cathedral. Although Prabhu is often hailed as the desi Agatha Christie, this novel has none of the menace-under-an-English-sun feel associated with Christie. The flavour is more Nordic noir.

Even the weather adds to the atmosphere of menace in this second book in the Re Parkar series. There is always the feeling that something larger than the palpable is happening here. And yet the tempo never flags as the investigators find and decipher clues embedded in runic language in stones strewn across the terrain. The author has deftly woven the meanings and significance of the runes into the narrative in a way that contributes to the reader’s knowledge while taking the narrative forward. And then there are Magdalena’s passionte feelings for Re, all of which will inevitably remind you of the Dan Brown novels.

Prabhu’s skill lies in the way she deftly manipulates points of view to build up the suspense. The several plot strands connect seamlessly at the end to make this a pacy page-turner.

A Full Night’s Thievery. The writer is a novelist, short story writer and translator whose latest book is

; Voice of the Runes , Manjiri Prabhu Bloomsbury,

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