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Published on: 07/6/07 11:20 AM

Book review: The Gold Of Their Regrets by Ravi Shankar Etteth

A crackling good yarn

Subhas Chandra Bose in a guest role, Nazi gold, a sprinkling of  murders make for a great thriller.

First, the good news. This is a crackling good yarn, a murder  mystery that moves at a rapid pace, is peopled with ingenious characters and at its centre, holds a story that in turn, holds the reader’s interest all through.

Next, the story; without spoilers. The gold of the protagonists’ regrets is a Nazi cache, a German war
chest, evil gold, death gold, ill-begotten gold, but of course. The ingots, worth all of £30 million, is what a  certain S.C. Bose was carrying with him on what was  to be the leader’s last war-time sortie, on the flight that crashed in the fetid jungles on the Indo-Burma border.

And where there is gold, there has to be greed and greedy  people; here, a trio makes off with the gleaming bars that  came from Nazi coffers and was intended to re-infuse fresh  blood into the war against those who ruled India.

The characters

Years on, the trio is stalked by a mysterious killer, a man of method, great economy of emotion and movement, deadly of intent and virtually unstoppable. Attempting to stop him are characters from Etteth’s earlier book The Village of Widows, DCP Anna Khan, the improbable Demon Cop, and her companion, Jay Samorin, profiler of crime nonpareil, the man who keeps a couple of fossas (Madagascar hunting cats for those who may not know,  which includes most of us) as domesticated pet cats.

As the story unwinds, we meet with a motley cast that  includes a pair of lesbians, some dwarves and suchlike,  and criss-cross briskly across Shan country in Myanmar,  Delhi, Rishikesh, Kashmir, Dehra Dun, to end up in a  private estate near Palghat, Kerala.

At times, Etteth’s trademark linguistic flourishes threaten  to tug the reader’s gaze away from the thrill of the chase.  Some situations are a bit contrived and Anna Khan’s emotional baggage (torn between mourning for her murdered husband Irfan Khan and her lover, Samorin) tends to loosen the moorings of the narrative.

The relationship between Samorin and Anna comes through  as just a tad chauvinistic (in one episode they make love with her holding her weapon!); he is as much her guardian  angel as lover. And, amusingly, or perhaps bemusingly,  there are dollops aplenty of haute lifestyle accessories
from Versace to Prada and Aigner, Partager to Armani that dot the story. All of this doesn’t stick in the craw of the tale, though.

Twists and turns

Etteth artfully places a red herring in the reader’s path for a while, in a neat twist; the reader doesn’t know quite what to make of Khan’s assistant Tamang. Is he really what he  seems to be?

Then again, the character who dominates just about all  the parts she features in is the enigmatic and ageless Tulsi. Tulsi, Jay Samorin’s on-off inamorata and protectoress, quite probably the deity at whose altar  he worships, too, is a touch of pure exotica.

All the bits about the ancient Chinese art of qui that straddles  martial art and spirituality, is as entertaining as it is informative. The twist at the end, though, is a bit of a stretch; equally surprising is the fact that the killer doesn’t quite fit the image  the reader is persuaded to form of him.

“But there was never a passage that did not leave behind a sign, however small,” it says in The Gold of their  Regrets. Etteth has followed that principle and in doing so,  makes the book a fun read. A good murder mystery from a consummate word-wielder.

The Gold of their Regrets; Ravi Shankar Etteth; Penguin; Rs 250.

Related Links:

Book review: Killing Time in Delhi by Ravi Shankar Etteth

Book review: The Brahmin by Ravi Shankar Etteth



book reviewcrime thrillerfictionGold Of Their RegretsRavi Shankar Etteththriller

Sheila Kumar • July 6, 2007

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