The defense has always fascinated me. My grandfather was a part of Indian AirForce and my mother is a teacher at Army School. These are the only links I have to the world of defense. So, my major source of information has always been the countless films and books we have on this subject. And every time I come across one, I lap it up in the hope of getting more insights to the world which has always fascinated us civilians.
The Indian Army website greets you with this quote- ” To be born free is an accident. To live free is a privilege. To die free is a responsibility”. Impressive I must say, quite impressive. The ones associated with the world of defense do wear their badge of honor with utmost pride. And why not, they are the ones to be thanked for having a country where corruption and not war is an issue to be worried about. Which brings me to a book which I stumbled upon. Titled Jacob Hills, this is a tale which uses Indian Army as a backdrop to narrate a riveting saga which is thrilling, funny and interesting at the same time.
The plot takes you to a bygone era ( 1980’s to be specific) and focuses on a group of army gentlemen, their wives and the world around them. The expanse is limited which I believe is intentional and it manages to suck the reader to that make believe world of Jacob Hills where all that you have heard about the Indian Army being a group of gentlemen out to protect the motherland will go out of the window.Lets face it, the Army men are humans and Indians after all and they have as much right to be corrupt and inhuman as any other civilian. The dark murky world of Jacob Hills is full of tales of corruption, deceit, bigamy, pedophilia and lots more which will make you do a quick rethink about the world around you.
The world created by the writer Ismita Tandon Dhankher is edgy, sinister and very disturbing. It connects you to incidents which you hear about in the news but haven’t really come face to face with. The story all of a sudden changes gears and develops into a thriller and that as a matter of fact takes the anticipation level a touch higher. And as the story ends, you sit back for a moment and piece the puzzle together. And in that moment, my admiration for the author grew further as she very easily could have gone wrong. After all writing a whodunit is not an easy task and takes exceptional skills.
But like no piece of art is perfect, similarly Jacob Hills has its share of flaws. The characters remain a bit underdeveloped, as the story tries to focus on too many characters. In fact doing away with some characters wouldn’t really have hurt the story much. The build up to the suspense and the ultimate revelation could have been handled in a better manner. Yes, as a reader you are surprised but that punch is missing which is such a vital ingredient of a murder mystery.
Then again, this is Ismita’s second book and with time, she will only attain greater heights. Her style of writing is quite rare and is very believable. She keeps it simple and that in turn helps the reader participate a lot more in the story than he would usually. The illustrations for every character have been done brilliantly and help you identify that much more with every character.
I guess here is an author who is all set to create a mark for herself in the world of fiction….For her next offering,,,, The world shall wait…with Bated breadth!!!!!