The author of The Trail of Four, Manjiri Prabhu, is apparently called the Indian Agatha Christie. The Indian Dictionary (Shashi Tharoor, for those of you who are confused) calls her our very own answer to Dan Brown. And the blurb tells one Dan-Brown-ish story. So even though I wasn’t planning to read it for at least another week from the time of picking it up, the blurb intrigued me enough for me to pick it up right away.
About ‘The Trail of Four’:
The Trail of Four is about investigative journalist Re Parkar, who has visions about untowardly things happening. However, he isn’t able to do anything about them most of the time. This time, he dreams that the Austrian town of Salzburg, the Schloss Leopoldskron is under a looming threat. A trail set 75 years ago by Max Reinhardt, an American-Jewish Director needs to be solved in order to save Salzburg and retrieve the ‘heart’ of an Archbishop.
The Trail of Four: The Not-So-Alluring Parts:
I started reading The Trail of Four with a lot of expectations, most important of which was the one of consistency. But while the plot was engaging enough, it kept dipping low and rising up on its whims. The reason why I kept at it was the hope that at the end of it all, I would like the book for its entirety, and not dislike it because of its parts. The Trail of Four starts off well, impressing and living up to my self-created hype. I found myself hoping that this would last till the very end and that the book wouldn’t turn around, sink, and disappoint me. Would the long list of characters that spring up in the first 20-odd pages try to hammer my hopes? I only had to read ahead to find out. Which I did.
The narrative had me torn between finding it too descriptive and being absolutely perfect. But the latter won out by a very narrow margin. Though, I must say, deductions put forth in 10-page conversations between two people becomes too drawn out. It could have been cut into sections to make it more interesting and not so obvious. The characters, in such places, try to look too smart and Sherlock or Poirot-like. Speaking of Poirot, Re Parkar uses mon ami and eh bien and this reminded me a lot of the little Belgian detective.
Coming back to conversations: When Re and Isabel are on the trail, their solving of the clues is a little stagnant. There’s nothing fresh about it. Conversations evolve – and then they revolve – and come back to the same clue that they have no idea how to solve. It gets tiring after a while, to read their conversations and seeing that they are following the same old template.
The Trail of Four – The Positives:
Despite all this, I cannot help but marvel at how well-researched the book is. The story is neither beautiful nor stunning. It is, however, very informative. A volley of facts descending on your mind, waiting to see if you can take it all in. But in the end, I guess it’s okay.
It is at the halfway mark that I finally, finally find the book gripping enough. I realized a number of things: maybe because of the mention of Dan Brown, I thought that Re is like Robert Langdon and Isabel is like one of the many professors that accompany him. The Trail of Four is so much like Dan Brown’s books. But I also know that it is unfair to compare the two. After all, the differences are there. The setting – Austria. The characters – Re, Isabel, Stefan. The inception – a drama director called Max Reinhardt. But though I started enjoying the book in the latter parts, it wasn’t as much as I’d have liked.
The Trail of Four might be slow in the beginning, but as it comes to an end, the pace picks up and the suspense builds. It comes to a point where you can’t wait to find out why exactly everything is happening and who is behind it. I must say that I found the ending a tad bit anticlimactic. In addition to this, there are a few spelling, punctuation, and grammatical mistakes here and there, but none that could have an impact on how I see the book.
All in all, I found The Trail of Four an enjoyable read. If you want to pick it up, however, I must tell you that you must have the patience to sink in to the story at a slow pace. Don’t expect it to go off with a bang!
Author(s): Manjiri Prabhu
Publisher: Bloomsbury India
Release: April 2017
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