Second Lives is a Crime Thriller, a genre which I enjoy upon overdosing on the love, light and sunshine stories. It is a genre which makes you sit upright and pay attention. Literature has no boundaries because it primarily transcends geography and focuses on the human experience. I have also felt local, stories set in areas familiar to you are better grasped and have a higher connect with the reader, this is my opinion and personal experience. That’s the reason I promptly requested Second Lives from the lovely team at Westland Books.
This is the author, Anish Sarkar’s second book; it’s sort of becoming a trend in India for more and more people holding corporate jobs turning part time writers. I must say they are writing some mean, good, quick paced stories filled with crime, thrill, love and lust. Here’s one for you today, read on my fellow bookworms to discover a new to you, Indian author.
Title: Second Lives
Author: Anish Sarkar
Published: July 2016
Publisher: Westland Books
Format reviewed: Paperback
City [s] set in: Goa, Delhi and the hills of India – home to its various boarding schools.
Time period: Contemporary
Professions of main characters: socialite, businessman, ex military, journalist, politician and covert ops expert.
Three old friends Sara, Neel and Omar reunite in Goa after the sudden death of Rachel Fernandes, a member of their group. Discovering that Rachel, a sports journalist, had been doing a story on the brutal killing of a foreign tourist, they are puzzled by her interest in such a grisly crime. It emerges that Rachel’s investigation went far beyond a single murder and their lives are soon under threat too.
With a traumatic event from their teenage years coming back to haunt them, the trio realises that the mystery has its roots in their own past. In the midst of battling their personal demons, they make a desperate plan to flush out a sadistic killer in the sylvan setting of their old boarding school in the Himalayan foothills. With the body count rising and long-buried secrets tumbling out, will they succeed?
A story of a group of friends from boarding school with shared happiness, tragedy and secrets. It has the creepy factor done well and also has a couple of frenemies thrown in for the added mystery. Sara, Rachel, Neel, and Omar survive the boarding school and remain friends. Fast forward Rachel commits suicide but her death brings back some very scary, forgotten parts of the friends time together and turn their present lives upside down. No one believes it’s a suicide and the friends soon decide to find out who murdered Rachel.
As the story unfolds and the past secrets unravel everything around them gets sucked into a web of crime and chaos. From start to finish I felt an underlying sense of eerie and terrible foreboding. Every twist and piece of the past unraveled gave an indication of something sinister lurking nearby. It can be fairly described as a group of people intertwined in an unknowing web of deception, camaraderie, friendship and secrets.
The mystery and birth of crime and evil begins back in the boarding school when Sara, one of the friends, guided by an undiagnosed illness and teenage hormones becomes part of a deadly crime committed by her then boyfriend, who by nature is a cold hearted killer. The late entry and reveal of the killer throws you off as by then we had pinned the crimes on the friend who had disappeared long back. It felt the story somehow misleads the reader and lets them pin the crimes on someone else and when we think it’s a surety a totally new character is introduced as the killer. That’s the twist and maybe it is suppose to throw the reader off but it also left me with unanswered questions which put me off. That said, the mysteries and twists were unexpected and surprises you in a good way.
The detective work by the three remaining friends in Goa felt Bollywood & crime shows inspired, more like nosing around in spare time whole enjoying the Goan hospitality. The killer is well disguised till the end, he was never introduced earlier and his victims never discussed by the friends. Unless there is a sequel there are a few things left unexplained.
To summarize I would say that boarding school friendships are tricky; you are either bonded for life or spend the rest of your life avoiding the very same friends you spent your formidable teenage years with. It’s also a setting which reminds you a lot of the movie: I know what you did last summer. It was intriguing enough with well narrated twists and turns to keep your interest alive. A very refreshing read indeed.
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About the author
Anish Sarkar is a part-time author and full-time corporate slave. He works for a multinational consulting firm and lives in Mumbai. His interests include traveling, cricket and wildlife. Second Lives is his second book.
Connect with the author via Facebook
Review by Bharti