Author : Sharath Komarraju
Publisher : Westland
Kauveramma, the matriarch of a prominent family, falls into a well and drowns. The only curious detail is that there was no water in her lungs. Kauveramma was terrified of water, which raises the question of what she was doing at the well at the time of death and the possibility of foul play. Detective Pasha and Inspector Nagarajan’s investigation begins with a series of interviews with Kauveramma’s sons and daughters.
What makes the novel stand out is an almost Agatha Christie-sh kind of investigation treatment - each character has a motive to kill and each of them has an alibi to believe in. Author's way with words - in terms of scene visualization is captivating and an attempt not to deliberately try to dumb down the language is well appreciated. (something which a lot of current crop of novelists do). Pasha's subtle reading of clues - in view of body language, hand movements and reading in between the lines is what gives the story the necessary strength. The narrative is easy and the settings provides an almost countryside like calmness to the investigation.
Not all of the characters are well etched and the initial build up is excruciatingly slow. There seems to be an almost deliberate attempt to confuse readers with too many characters even though you can easily guess before hand that some of them has absolutely nothing to do with the murder. I was also disappointed that after initial few chapters - Pasha's shayari lines go out of the narrative and all we are left with is a stereotypical miyan fumbling Hyderabadi guy.
I am going with 3/5 for Sharath's 'Banquet on the dead'. I was not cent percent happy with how the actual murder take place - it is far fetched to have been done in that way. But nitpicking apart, it is a watertight murder mystery that deserves your time. Will be happy to read more only if author promises to give Pasha another novel to bring in those cheesy shayari lines again to the readers!