Book Review: The Fast and the Dead by Anuja Chauhan

I recently delved into my first Anuja Chauhan novel, and let me tell you, it is unmistakably comic and abundantly peppered with cultural references, her trademark elements for the perfectly engaging story. I found myself immersed in the delightful chaos of The Fast and the Dead right from its supple, witty start – “Madam, are you wet?” “I’m the vet, yes”!

The Fast and the Dead is a mystery-forward story, a departure from Chauhan’s usual romance-centric narratives. Set within a bustling residential locality of Hubba Galli in Bengaluru, the story introduces us to a diverse ensemble cast, each brimming with quirks and complexities. The bane of half the Galli’s existence is stray dogs and the other half a population divided in two camps, which sets the stage for the murder.

There’s the old Christian lady with a penchant for shotguns and meat, the Muslim widow at odds with a wealthy Marwari, an enigmatic, supposedly Kashmiri carpet-seller, a struggling alcoholic mother-vet daughter duo, and even a stoner trust fund kid renting out his lavish home on AirBnB. It’s a motley crew, and the story hinges on stereotypes, using them as a launchpad for the plot. As ACP Bhavani Singh investigates a shooting incident while on his annual honeymoon, the book takes you on a journey that’s part whodunit, part social commentary, with a lot of Gen-Z references intertwined with Bengaluru slangs. It also has a glimpse of K-drama (not Korean) along with a cringe song, “Ae chaand, don’t be lazy, I wanna break my KC” (KC is Karwa Chauth).

However, I couldn’t shake the feeling that some scenes were trying too hard to elicit laughs. It’s as if every dialogue was followed by a literal laugh track. Yet, there’s an endearing self-awareness to the narrative that makes it enjoyable. The story unfolds like a classic mystery novel, complete with a locked room murder, a web of suspects, and a healthy dose of red herrings. 

While the book may have been a bit overwhelming initially with its myriad characters, it eventually found its rhythm. Guess who fell in love? A Muslim once-shy-now- heart-throb superstar and once-rich-now-bankrupt Brahmin vet. The romance subplot may be a tad cheesy, but it adds to the overall warmth of the narrative while leaving you wanting more of it. The entire setup of all suspects in one room to reveal the murderer is a good way to end, but it felt too dragged and repetitive while covering all motives again which made me skip parts to the big reveal. To my slight disappointment, the revelation of the murderer left me with a sense of anticlimax, devoid of the expected shock and awe, but instead, a lingering feeling of underwhelming realization.

Even though I’m a first-time reader of Anuja Chauhan, The Fast and the Dead, despite its flaws, left me entertained, intrigued, and eager to explore more of her work. So, if you’re in the mood for a fast-paced mystery with a dash of humour and a quirky cast of characters, this one’s a worthwhile addition to any reading list.

Pick up Anuja Chauhan’s The Fast and the Dead from any Kunzum store or WhatsApp +91.8800200280 to order. Buy the book(s) and the coffee’s on us.

About the author:

Richa Shah spent a decade in the fast-paced world of advertising before deciding to take a leap into the slow, yet enthralling, and ever-growing realm of home brewing Specialty Coffee, all while exploring new and catching up on some unread books. Amidst the pages of books and sips of coffee, Richa has found joy in this new chapter of her journey.
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