Book review – A Closetful of Skeletons
If you are an avid reader, it is quite possible to build a certain image of an author and start associating them with certain genres (only). Tanushree Podder’s latest, A Closetful of Skeletons is a departure from her other books where at least three of the titles have the armed forces as the backdrop and two are historical fiction. The “rainbow chasing” author decided to go sniffing for bones this time! Knowing fully well that it is a murder mystery (the title does its bit) I picked this up without hesitation. For one, her writing brings a sense of comforting familiarity. Second, her subjects are always thoroughly researched, thus ensuring a delightful read. And then who doesn’t like a nice who-dun-it?
A Closetful of Skeletons is the story of Ramola a fading star who decides to exit gracefully and move to the hills. Readers are given a glimpse of her brief tryst with the filmwallahs, including a mafia don with filmi connection. The book begins with each one of them receiving a phone invite to her upcoming birthday party where she plans to make an announcement – also connected to them. I will say that is (unwittingly) the start of a mystery because along with the characters, it leaves the reader wondering about the announcement and the consequence it holds for each of them.
The hills offer a stark yet pretty contrast. This is where Ramola has made her home and finds some peace and contentment. A group of seniors who meet over gossip, and a game of bridge seem to be the only source of excitement in this sleepy town. Until a murder happens, that is.
On the day of celebration and announcement, Ramola’s two worlds – the erstwhile murky and the present jolly and peaceful – come together on the lawns of her bungalow. A night later she is murdered, which undoubtedly had been provoked by her announcement. What then follows is a thrilling turn of pages that leads to a nail-biting finish.
The characters from both the worlds are etched so well that it is not easy to get muddled up. On one hand is the motley group of people from the film industry and on the other a group of retired professionals settled in the hills. While the film-wallahs send shudders down the spine, the hill folk bring in a cozy feeling with their joyful camaraderie brought out in their evening bridge and dinner sessions. While the contrast is evident, Tanushree also not only manages to bring them together on platform but also weaves them into the story very well. What particularly caught my attention is the brief interlude they have at the beginning, each apprising the other from at a distance.
The writing style is breezy (in fact some choice of words is a delightful find). She does not shy away from hinting that a murder is waiting to happen at least on two occasions. It’s not easy to ignore the author’s love for travel, where Podder sprinkles the Italian connection quite generously.
With a tight plot, delightful characters, quirky connections and the charmed world of a sleepy mountain town as a backdrop, A Closetful of Skeletons is simply a treat for that lazy weekend afternoon.