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Published on: 11/27/22 6:10 AM

Book review: More Spooky Stories by Tanushree and Ajoy Podder

The ghosts are back in this follow up to Tanushree Podder`s YA fiction, ‘Spooky Stories.’

In this sequel of sorts, which is also a crossover work into adult readership, the mise-en-scene is a classic one. Uday Sengupta travels from the US to India to visit his uncle, Keshav Roy, after many years. The taxi driver abandons him on a desolate stretch of road and leaves abruptly. Sengupta  reaches his uncle’s dilapidated house on a moonless night. It is raining; there is no electricity. Inside the house, a party is in progress.

Keshavmama, as Uday calls him, is in attendance with some of his friends. And in the dining room dimly lit by candles,  those friends start to tell stories. Spooky stories, but of course.

The ghosts in these stories are both homegrown and from places as far flung as Mexico and the US. Some of these ghosts are on a personal mission to wreak revenge on the person who has wronged them, with enough justification for their actions. The stories also seem to imply that you can never escape past misdeeds; good old Nemesis will catch up with you.

The evil doll, a standard trope of horror movies, makes an appearance in this book, and the tale  is appropriately chilling,  even as it follows a predictable pattern. Reincarnation, another  old Indian favourite, also makes an appearance in this collection.

Ghosts who are `different`

In one of the most absorbing tales, ‘Too Late for Regrets,’ the ghost is well,  different. Here the human emotions of loyalty and affection dictate the actions of the ghost, and cast a light on how human beings sometimes seem to see the world with blinkers on, and in the process fail to recognise the true worth of something right in front of them.

The stories are written in a simple, engaging style. None of them are hair-raising; in fact, one can easily glean how some of them will pan out. This, however, does not detract from the story in any way because the reader remains fully invested. Each tale  is accompanied by an  illustration that goes directly to the heart of the story, drawn by Sucharita Sengupta Suri.

There are two factors that work to the book’s advantage. One is that the ghosts are of different kinds and not uniformly evil, with some revealing distinct  human traits. If there is a greedy ghost, there is a kindly one, infusing the stories with pleasant variety. Then, there is humour, nostalgia, whimsy and good old-fashioned creepiness in them, too.

The other factor that works is how the stories are set in different places. These varied  locations, be it the Island of Dolls in Mexico, Bangalore airport, a tea plantation, all add colour to the stories. The authors  take the trouble to flesh out these locations nicely; we  never meet the ghosts instantly in these stories; a sense of place is established,  and then the ghost is introduced.

Finally there is a subtle message that the story concerning Uday Sengupta conveys: you have to take the trouble to keep in touch regularly and meet  your near and dear ones,  however far away  you may be. If that effort is not taken, relationships like ghosts, can vanish into thin air!

More Spooky Stories By Tanushree and Ajoy Podder. Harper Collins. 158 pages. Rs.299

This ran in the New Sunday Express Magazine of 27 November 2022. 

crossover novelghost storiesHarperCollins BooksMore Spooky Storiesspooky storiesTanushree and Ajoy Podder

Sheila Kumar • November 27, 2022

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