Kiran Manral’s debut novel, The Reluctant Detective is a true –blue chick-lit. It is the story of Kanan Mehra aka Kay, a thirty-something suburban housewife who, in between her ladies lunches and pedicures pokes her nose into two grisly murders that happen in her locality. Kay is intrigued ( scared of blood and squeamish also), but wants to get to the bottom of the murders.She therefore decides to investigate the murders with her detective friend Runa. If you have read Manral’s blogs before, you’ll be no stranger to her brand of self-deprecating sophisticated humor. The book has copious amounts of that to keep you in splits, most of the time. Kay’s antics are funny and her obsession for lipsticks and stilettos and weight is rather amusing. What is also adorable is Kay’s son’s( the brat aka Kabir’s) brat-speak and the responses of her retro-sexual husband. All this works for the book and makes it a fun-filled ride. The humor is definitely not in-your-face- ha- ha- I’m-rolling-on-the-floor-laughing kinds, but subtle and polished. Manral is great with words and her writing, ergo, rather clever. So all this works for the book.
What doesn’t is the fact that there is very little “actual” investigation happening. And whatever little “reluctant” investigation happens is lost between Kay’s rambling, that one often wonders when she would move on and “do something”, rather than just say something witty about some really unrelated thing. While I get the point that Kay’s personality is such that she takes the way she looks seriously and rambles aimlessly (all this makes Kay immensely likeable, mind you!), after a point it just got a little too much for me. Very Becky Bloomwood-ish characterization (and that’s not such a bad thing ,because Bloomwood happens to be one of the most adored chick-lit heroines).
Now don’t get me wrong, I love chick-lits (they happen to be one of my favorite genres), and Manral is one of the few authors who have managed to give her protagonist a strong voice, but because the plot itself is rather slow , it got too tedious for me. Actually, the plot is wafer thin- no twists, no red herrings, no complicated chases. Just tongue-in-cheek humour courtesy Kay’s monologues. It takes almost 120-odd pages (the book is only 180 pages) for Kay to even start getting involved into the investigation, and even when she does get involved, the cases just get “almost” solved on their own.
The writing is supremely funny, though and the wry wit definitely makes the book immensely readable. Kay’s take on the random things like buffets and the behavior of maids was rather refreshing to read.Wish the book had not been marketed at a murder mystery, because if you are going to be reading it in that light , you are going to be disappointed. If you read the book only for the laughs and for Manral’s funny observations, you’ll find yourself enjoying it.
Recommended to all lovers of Chick-lits. This is definitely a book to curl up with on a Sunday afternoon.
My rating : 3 stars out of 5.