Authored by a teenager of just sixteen years, Juni Dagger had me interested on account of two things – the age of the author and the blurb which incidentally reads as follows –
When the residents of Meraupatnam’s posh Dormeth Lane start getting picked off by mysterious snipers, the mayor has no choice but to call in the celebrated detective Juni Dagger. With the aid of his assistant, Monroe and a stranger-turned- ally, Cameron, Dagger must find the link between the murders and find the mastermind, a mysterious man who goes by the name Veron.
Interspersed with his sleuthing, are Dagger’s culinary adventures, which often throw up clues to his case. Soon, Dagger discovers that Veron is now targeting him and his desire to be rid of the detective can only be matched by Dagger’s desire to enjoy a good meal (or two or three!).
A murder mystery with a very quirky character for the protagonist, one who looks more like a foodie than a detective, Juni Dagger has all the elements to keep you hooked. There is suspense, there are false leads and there are slight twists and turns. Though the start is slow, the end is racy and somewhere down the story you can’t help but look forward to solving the mystery which has snipers falling dead or popping cyanide pills on being caught.
As the story progresses one is confused whether Juni Dagger is really serious about the job assigned to him or is there just to enjoy a vacation and gorge on shawarma, pizzas, etc., at the expense of unsuspecting simple folks. There are several leads but each time Juni feels he has solved the mystery, another death or sniper attack takes place throwing up a fresh challenge in Juni’s face. And then suddenly everything starts falling into place like a jigsaw puzzle. Now did I see that coming? Not till I reached well past the half-way mark.
All the characters except that of Monroe is well-articulated. One can easily relate to their thoughts, actions and mannerisms. The protagonist Juni does come across as a strange character. But then don’t detectives in general come across as eccentrics? Juni is just one among them.
Simple and devoid of jargon, making the book an easy and fast read.
This is one place where the age and maturity of the author is easily evident. There are places where one feels that the book is written by an amateur. But here again I’d say it’s a book written by a teenager in whom I see an immense potential, one to take the world by storm in a few years provided he gets the right kind of guidance and motivation. Juni Dagger is his debut novel and that too quite a fine one.
Lastly, the editing needs to be tightened a bit to smoothen out the minor creases (flaws) one comes across here and there.
Overall an interesting detective novel with a streak of surrealism and the potential to keep one hooked till the end.
Reviewed by : Geeta Nair
Author(s): Arjun Chandra Kathpalia
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Release: September 2017
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