You’re seen, tracked, and followed everywhere you go. Every line & picture you post; someone is watching. All that information in the wrong hands is a recipe for disaster. You have a smart door, a CCTV; everything is controlled via an app on your mobile phone. All they need to do is to hack into your phone. Anyone can get in, anyone can see you inside your home. How safe are you inside your home? Myra is a young, independent, single working woman living in Gurgaon. After a party in her home, she wakes up the following morning and discovers that she has been raped. But she was at home, surrounded by her friends. Who could have done this to her? Was it one of her friends or a stranger?
Author: Kanchana Banerjee
Review: There’s a scene early on in Kanchana Banerjee’s Eye On You where the protagonist Myra is explaining the crime to an SHO, a female police officer. Myra hasn’t even completely processed what has happened to her. But she’s feeling horrible.
Her rich and carefree, always-everything-on-Instagram lifestyle contrasts heavily with that of the middle-class Station House Officer. And, unfairly or otherwise, the SHO doesn’t really believe that there was a crime. She thinks this “victim” is a loose woman who has forgotten her adventures under the influence of alcohol.
The key thing about the aforementioned sequence is how it is a microcosm of the themes that the author pursues in the book. On the face of it, the book is a whodunit. The synopsis makes as much clear. But around that mystery is an attempt to explore these varied ideas. The range of emotions and societal responses faced by a rape victim. The class divide in a city like Gurgaon. The perils of 24/7 social media life. The apathy of the police force.
The author uses the maxim of making characters flawed to the hilt. It is made clear right from the beginning that not one of the people in the story is squeaky clean. Sure, some have brighter clothes than the others. But, for example, just because Myra is the protagonist/heroine here, doesn’t mean she always gets our support. In this regard, I think the author makes a great choice. At many points, the reader is forced to wonder – am I right in rooting for her? Should I dissect the rape victim from the fat-shaming rich woman? In doing so, the author and the book force us to confront our own biases and preconceptions. For a work of fiction, this is always a good thing.
The actual mystery is well-done. The author uses both first-person narrative and third-person omnipresent narrative. Using the former, she starts out with the “is Myra an unreliable narrator?” dilemma. With the latter, she maintains a strong hand on the tension and the plot. For good measure, we also get first-person accounts from the perpetrator, a few chapters in. The technological premise seemed a little far off for me. However, there are two things. One, I’m not an expert on that matter. Second, once you take this premise at face value, the rest of the book stays honest to it. It isn’t as if all kinds of unworldly techie stuff keeps happening. The dangers of the internet here are believable, and the book makes full use of this plot device. The misdirection in the story is strong enough to keep you wondering about the identity of the villain. To top it all, the author makes sure that we don’t spend too much time away from the mystery at any point. The final reveal, when we get there, follows logically and satisfactorily from the story.
Another plus is how the author weaves in the city of Gurgaon (not Gurugram) and its social strata in to the story. The author wades into the class divide right from the prologue. The geographical landmarks are also used to ground the story into its ambience. Sadly for me, the story later moves away from the exploration of inequality that it does in the beginning, but it does so after making the point that life for a woman remains difficult in our cities regardless of one’s social standing.
The book follows a proper mystery thriller structure, giving us drip-by-drip information, building suspense, throwing in red herrings, before reaching the crescendo to the big reveal. There’s not much to nitpick structurally, although I found some of the flashbacks a bit tedious and superfluous.
This superfluous nature raises its head a fair few times in the book. It felt like the book could have shaved a fair few pages off the eventual 188 page mark.
The other issue is the presence of serendipity and lucky breaks. Without going into spoiler territory, let me just say that the conflict resolution strains the boundaries of credulity. I agree that even in real life, crime cases are sometimes resolved by the most mundane and unlikely of means. But, suffice it to say that I’d have preferred the good guys to have worked harder for their discovery.
If you are a regular reader/viewer of crime fiction, you’d probably solve the case well in time. There are tells in the book to aid you. But even so, or otherwise, this is an exciting and quick whodunit that doesn’t shy away from throwing punches at various levels of the society.
P. S.: An early bit of shards of drunken memory brought Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on The Train to mind. The book veered away from that route fast, and for the better.
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