Book Review: Masala and Murder is a Simmering Suspense With a Dollop of Black Magic

Patrick Lyons’s Masala and Murder has the requisite ingredients to whip up a delicious whodunnit writes Sapna Nair.

What appears to be a case of death by ‘natural causes’ turns out to be way murkier than it seems. There’s Bollywood, betrayal, black magic, lies, suspicions, and a storyline that shuttles between Mumbai and Melbourne. Patrick Lyons’s Masala and Murder has the requisite ingredients to whip up a delicious whodunnit.

The story is told from the point of view of Samson Ryder, a policeman-turned-private detective based in Australia, who has been entrusted with investigating the death of a Bollywood actress. Her wealthy parents find it hard to reconcile with the fact — as reported by the police — that their daughter simply dropped dead while shooting a dance sequence atop the Uluru – a location in Australia – in blistering heat.

The premise is interesting and the story intriguing at the start; but it takes a long time for the plot to thicken. The story springs an actual jaw-dropping revelation only after 150 odd pages. A sense of restlessness creeps in—you wish Ryder would hasten the investigation.

As his investigation continues, Ryder returns to his birthplace, Mumbai, to question and investigate those who had a link to Subhani Mehta, the actress, in a bid to uncover the real reason behind her death. Mostly, though, he does this to placate the grieving parents. Having lost his own sister recently, he has his own grief and regret to deal with.

With help from his enthusiastic aunt, Ryder goes about knocking as many doors as possible, beating Mumbai’s heat, grime, and traffic, to seek answers. As an agnostic and realist, Ryder struggles with his reluctant encounters with black magic and superstition. How he navigates the world of curses while being conflicted all along makes for compelling reading.

His descriptions of Mumbai, at times, are accurate and hit home. For instance, at some point in the book Ryder observes that the contrast between the rich and the poor does not quite strike you in Mumbai because it is “so easy to get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the inequality”. Read that again.

However, on occasions, his musings seem too detached from reality. This reaction on seeing a bunch of well-dressed youngsters inside a call centre cafeteria may seem exaggerated to some: “For a country that had restrained male-female social interaction for so long, this place was charged with sexual tension.”

Masala and Murder is an easy read; the absence of complex characters and a largely linear storyline, devoid of too many subplots, mean there is no flitting back and forth or room for FOMO. It would be a great pick for someone wanting to sample the murder mystery genre. The simple and straightforward writing, humour-laden in parts, will inspire you to binge-read and uncover the mystery sooner. The twist in the end will shock you, and the sight of lemons and chillies will give you the jitters.

Pick up Peter Lyons’ Masala and Murder from any Kunzum store or WhatsApp +91.8800200280 to order. Buy the book(s) and the coffee’s on us.

About the Reviewer:

Sapna Nair is a writer, editor, and writing coach. She has worked with publications such as Financial Express, Business Today, and afaqs!. Follow her escapades on Instagram.

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