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A Debut Novel

Gitanjali Chawla

By Sahil Loomba
Alchemy, Delhi, 2015, pp. 199, Rs. 175.00


Sahil Loomba’s debut novel The Faceless Saldirgan is the perfect screen play for a masala potboiler. A thriller with the right blend of intrigue and suspense, it keeps the reader on edge as suspicion darts from one suspect to the other. For a seasoned discerning reader of crime fiction, none are above suspicion but Loomba factors in the right elements, ‘a multi-billionaire victim, gruesome body art, tantalizing allegations, media frenzy, destroyed reputations and what not!’ along with a gripping pace and provocative clues. The author teases and tantalizes his readers as he leads them by the nose towards an alley, only to be met by a blind end again and yet again. Frustration and excitement toggle an interest that is sustained till the very end. Ralph Findlay, rich and famous, commits suicide leaving behind a devastated son, Jack Findlay, whose disbelief in the suicide is further splintered by secret cryptic notes sent by an even more secretive and faceless Saldirgan. The secrets that the latter intends to use against Jack as his trump card lead to a labyrinth of murders, furtive leads, frenzied investigations and what not. The reader is led through a frantic search to put a face and name to the faceless murderer, whose identity is at the core of this novel. A sexy intelligent girlfriend and a faithful friend at pains to prove his loyalty make for a suspicious ménage à trois, with a dash of Chinese deceit, suspicious land deals and an outrageously upright investigator thrown in, blended with metaphoric connotations of Roman stalwarts accentuating betrayal and deception, all of this add to a heady cocktail of crime and mystery. The final denouement will come as a surprise for many but for those who could connect the dots, will appear a trifle forced. Loomba’s eclectic interests in science (‘high school biology’), criminology, literature, history and popular fiction are evident as he coalesces a dash of all in this beautiful mélange. Though the language flows with ease from this debutant novelist, an awkward sentence here and there jars an otherwise smooth flow. Some tangents thrown in to throw the reader off scent are too earnest an attempt and only serve as irritants as they are obvious smoke screens, likewise, attempts to explain forensic processes and other details appear a trifle laboured. The masterstroke though lies in the penultimate death and the ensuing revelations wherein ...

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