Not having read her first book ‘Love on the rocks’ gave me the freedom to read this one without a preset bias. ‘Jacob Hills’ by Ismita Tandon Dhanker is her second fictional book and the murder mystery tryst continues. The book didn’t disappoint me. It’s fast-paced and her style of alternating characters for narration gave me a very fresh way to create a picture for all the characters of the book.
When it comes to the Army, most of the fictional material focuses on the idea of the life of the people in it, their struggles, their heroism and the code of conduct. Seldom have I come across a book which dares to weave its story around the fallacy of a perfect life and highlight the idiosyncrasies of a few people in the organization who play Jekyll and Hide with equal ease. The author humbly acknowledges in the beginning of the book that it is not about the organization but about the people and the choices they make.
Jacob Hills is an army station that houses a war college. The story, set in the repressive 1980’s, combines various social issues that are otherwise brushed under the carpet; especially in an elite society. The Chandy’s move to Jacob Hills and slowly find themselves amidst a social order with a different set of ethics. Gary and Pam-the typical spirited Punjabi couple, Heena and Rana who get married in some odd circumstances, Vikram and Saryu who end up in a soulless marriage- are a few characters in the story and each of these have their presence felt in an otherwise simple plot. A murder at Jacob Hills begins to unravel many hidden skeletons from the closet which not only astound the Chandy’s but also changes numerous personal and professional equations.
The language in the book is clear and the flow of the story ensures that the book can be put down only once finished. The picturesque description of the place and the people creates a very vivid image assisting in a better grip of the plot. Some of the sub-stories in the novel made my stomach churn but reminded me that these issues are all around us in the real society and some of us have to deal with these grappling truths on a daily basis. The end to the murder mystery though is a little disappointing and seemed to have reached the finish in a slight hurry. I may not be able to pinpoint the flaw but the flow is a little crooked towards the end. A few incidents and situations seemed slightly stretched and out of place in the course of the story but that form a negligible mark on the otherwise engrossing read.
Ismita Tandon Dhanker describes herself as a poet by heart and the subtle play with words at a few places in the novel emphasizes that. For a second novel, I felt that she has done a pretty good job of conjuring up an interesting yet simple plot and playing with it to keep the reader absorbed. The writing style is lucid and the small sketch associated with each character with the title of the chapters was an interesting addition. The cover design and the colors used could have been slightly more attractive. All in all, a good leisurely read.
— Interviewed By Roshni Nair A recruitment consultant based out of Pune , avid reader and an active iMelonite . ———————————————————————————————————————————
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Jacob Hills — By Ismita Tandon Dhanker is the book “In Focus”