A young marathoner is found murdered while camping out alone. The murder rocks Pune – and Prasanna Killedar, a retired police officer, is called to take part in the official investigation. The mystery deepens and as Prasanna continues to discover newer threads leading to the murder, she finds them in complicated knots.
Considering that ‘Crime’ and ‘Mystery’ are two of the fastest selling and most evergreen genres, books written in these genres come with high reader expectations. Pace, suspense, narration, plot – every aspect of the novel demands the deliberation due to it. It is hard to find an author who can juggle them all and deliver.
The Dark Road by Mayur Didolkar is one of those rare works of fiction that skilfully balances everything that is needed for a nail biting mystery.
Why You Root for the Protagonist
The plot, while it begins as a straightforward murder investigation, acquires newer intrigues and aspects. There is a dysfunctional family, political narratives that lure the youth (and the aftermath of those narratives), the dynamics of the influential class – and above all, the complexities of relationships. The author skilfully builds up each issue without hampering the pace that is crucial to the narration.
The narrative is two-pronged – with Prasanna narrating her side of the investigation in first person – and some flashbacks that form a crucial part of the story being narrated in third person. Readers might be reminded of the style of The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.
While reading The Dark Road, I realised that it appealed to the part of me that wanted to pause and contemplate the portrayal of the protagonist. As a woman, it gives me immense satisfaction that the central character – Prasanna Killedar – is in no way inferior to the legendary detectives we’ve all read about since the genre was born. It is possible that the reader might be more drawn to Prasanna given the thoughtfulness in her investigation, her unwavering commitment and, most importantly, her courage to face the most bitter truths. Her rising stake in the investigation makes us connect to her and root for her – unlike most detective mysteries where it is often a dispassionate, long drawn, post mortem analysis.
The backdrop of the armed Naxal movement is a crucial part of the mystery. Irrespective of the wing of politics that the reader subscribes to, the story artfully builds a realistic picture of such movements. Some might find a dystopian undertone to this part of the narrative, but the author is firmly committed to the genre the book belongs to and never disappoints in terms of suspense.
What the Book Has Left Me Hoping for...
Complexities of relationships – ranging from friendship and parenthood to sibling dynamics and a broken marriage – all find place in the story. The efforts that went into research as well as the honest portrayal are worth appreciating.
It is also noteworthy that the author invoked his own experience as a marathoner and an entrepreneur.
At the risk of repetition, I find it commendable that the book managed to sustain its pace throughout. (Side note? The ending is worth the wait!)
The Dark Road kept me guessing. It made me wish that the author would include more of Prasanna Killedar in his future works. It left me wondering what a big screen adaptation of the book would look like. It also made me hope that the publishers would bring out a print edition soon, so that more people would get to read it.
The Dark Road is currently available as a digital imprint through Juggernaut Books. You can download the book through the following link:
(Saiswaroopa Iyer’s debut novel ‘Abhaya” was described as “Great Storytelling and brilliant narrative, a thoroughly enjoyable read!” by bestselling author Amish Tripathi. Saiswaroopa is now working on her second novel. She lives in London.)