“Ruhaan and Ayesha, a young couple from Mumbai, are on vacation in the southern beach town of Pondicherry when they receive the shock of their lives-their two little children have gone missing from the famous Promenade Beach.
DSP Siva Raghavan, who is battling his own demons, takes over the investigation, but complicating matters is the presence of NGO worker Gayathri Meshram and ex-CBI man Girish Pradhan, who bring their own perspectives to the case.
Meanwhile, the Jan Seva Dal and its vice-president Sesh Kumar are making their presence felt in the southern state in their own way.
As the investigation leads Siva and his men to some unexpected places, will the perpetrators be found in time?
Will the two little swallows who once lived in Ruhaan’s nest ever return home?”
Review: To any parent, human or otherwise, the fear of losing their offsprings is too horrible to even imagine. The synopsis of this book, and hence my interest in it, came from this same idea. Add a wonderful cover and I must accept that I was suitably excited for this book.
The book takes on this age-old fear and builds on it through two hundred and six pages. The nice thing is the way the plot takes up seemingly disparate threads – grieving parents, a love triangle, loyalty and friendship, drama and the thrill of a chase – together and manages to tie up all the loose ends by the time you turn the last page. Another thing is that the amount of research that the author put in to ensure the technicalities come out right reflects in the book.
The major characters in the book are well-fleshed out, which helps with understanding their motivations and apprehensions. Almost every character is provided a backstory, which sketches them out well and prevents them from looking like cardboard cutouts. The twists and turns, which the thriller genre demands, are put in well too. A chase sequence late in the book is a high point and deserves special mention. It ratchets up the tension bit by bit and doesn’t let up at all.
The book uses an omniscient narrator, which means we are taken to different characters’ points-of-view. The good thing here is that the switches from one perspective to another have been handled well, and when different characters speak, their distinctness shines through. Full marks to the author there. Where this creates problems is in identifying the protagonist. The flashbacks make it uneasy to focus mentally on the work that a supposed-protagonist is doing at a point in time. A few pages hence, s/he might not be the one carrying the chase. There is a lesson for the reader here. Because real-life is, always, incredibly more complex and networked than fiction, what doesn’t look or feel cool on the page isn’t always implausible. The trouble is, the book doesn’t do enough to make that real-life likeness shine through.
Another issue that this attempt to explore every character creates is what seem like handbrakes against the zooming plot. Every so often, there are a few pages of forward action that are then held in place for a flashback which completely sucks the pace from the narrative. Up until 60-65 percent of the book, this issue keeps festering.
The amount of exposition is also a problem at various points. We are told a lot of things that we aren’t shown, which, besides abruptly changing the pace, also digress into threads that do not matter to the central conflict. On that point, nor do many of the side stories and flashbacks. Without spoiling anything, the book could possibly have cut a good 20% of its size by keeping out those side stories and flashbacks.
A good way to hold the reader’s attention by the hook is to keep the characters believable and relatable. Here, the good thing for the book is the inner conflicts that every character, whether good or bad, has. However, a fair number of these characters are in the realm of legends/superheroes in their respective fields. To compound matters, they keep popping up from time to time, as a plot knot demands.
The main villain’s reasons for the crimes, while elaborately spelt out, partly ring hollow, because it seems unwise to go to the lengths the plot does to achieve what the villain wants to.
Verdict: A book with solid research and a harrowing plot, Until The Swallows Come Home is a breezy read.
Reviewed as part of the Blogchatter Book Review Program. Click here to know all about it.
You can order this book via Amazon by clicking here.
Here’s the link to my Goodreads review of this book.
I’d love to hear your views on this post in the comments section.
Thanks for reading.