"The Perfect Suicide" (The Perfect Suicide - A Nine Series Thriller)
Author :
Jalaj Shrivastava, IAS,Additional Secretary in the Union Agriculture Ministry.
Category :
Thriller - Fiction
Publisher :
Delhi Printing and Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd
Available On :
Amazon India and on the website of jalajshrivastava
Quote By Author :
“uncertain central governments and political affiliations; of unsure friends and knives up every sleeve. Of caste and religious divides. Of hung assemblies and Parliament. Of Brutus in everyone and Caesar in none…”
Publish Date :
01-Jan-1900


Review :

 
In today’s world speaking truth in a crisis situation is like a perfect suicide, but don’t raise your dubious eyebrows, this book isn’t titled for this reason. “The Perfect Suicide” is in fact a gripping thriller fiction, and how the victims and the victimized, behave and react to the situations and among themselves. The essence of the story can be derived from the book cover where two spiders head on a spider web. Jalaj Shrivastava, IAS officer (IPS officer, initially in 1983) and the author of the book, has quite meticulously mentioned the details of the set ups and individual components of the plot, while adding a pinch of humour to the story. This is also quite evident in the “Author’s Note”, wherein the author mentions that as per the legal terms, he has mentioned that this book as a fiction, and as is obligatory upon him that the book doesn’t represent any person living or dead. And, he clarifies that he has made all the suitable changes to make his work look like a fiction in entirety, but yes, he also clarified saying that his batch mates, John (Durga M Mitra), Rina Mitra (Durga M Mitra’s wife), Deepak Nath and many such names are real, and they exist. 
 
This maiden novel of the author is an attempt to contribute to the society, and country at large, and as a gift to the future generation. Young minds, you have a lot to pull out for your left brain, as well as for your right ones. And, additionally, while reading the book, every reader would feel as if the author is narrating the story and sub-consciously feeding the readers with the hints & imageries that make his personality. In a nutshell, if you read this novel, you will also get to know the author. One of his traits, as can be felt while reading the book, apart from staying transparent and having a defined & demarcated way of describing things, is his ability to stay open for the criticism. This is why, he has found a learning opportunity and a couple of solutions when his family “mercilessly criticised and punched hole..” (as he as described) in the initial drafts of the story. 
 
This dramatic story is set on the eve of Valentine’s Day, jokes apart, it is actually set during an event i.e. the annual lunch of the IPS Officers’ Wives Association (known as IPSOWA), which happened to take place on 14th February, 2016, at Hotel La Vie. Sixteenth (top floor restaurant), Casablanca. The event is attended by the most powerful group of 200 women, in the heart of New Delhi, which is why Daulat, the Assistant Manager of the Restaurant was nervous about. They are enjoying their brink-winter meal together, absolutely submerged in the spirit of togetherness and joy, until the tragic ball falls on all of them. Suddenly, they are all taken up as hostages by the terrorists, in approximately 34 seconds, who had floor-wired the restaurants with the explosives. Their husbands, the top hierarchy of the Indian Police Force, join in for playing a lobby, which is basically a round of game between the black king and white king (of chess).
 
The chapter one opens at 11:40 am, on the V-day, at Casablanca. The first chapter is all about setting the context. A lot of detailing is done in case of the set ups. Author, as I feel, surely has an eye for perfection, and as the current trend follows this novel may get him associated with a movie or a television series. The chapter begins on a lighter note, analysing 9th space of the hotel describing that the Europeans eat their first meal at 7 am, and how sharp looking Indian professionals and the honeymoon couples or the vacationers do their breakfasts later. Then comes the background settings like the weather (sunny), agenda of the meeting, food & drinks, arrangements of the event including the housekeeping work, etc. Daulat had crossed his fingers virtually as he strictly instructed for the ladies’ security and event organization, till the last lady leave the hall. As planned, he started his work and ordered the staff to initiate the cleaning routine at 11:42 am. The restaurant hall was brimming with a picturesque view from the Sarai Kale Khan bridge to the Lotus temple, and Qutab Minar to the South east with a glimpse of Vikas Bhawan and Player’s building office complexes to the northern fringes. Outside the Casablanca restaurant was another restaurant Cordon Bleu Chef (Deepak Nath)-curated, “The Lobster”, and an adjacent twin building cum a commercial centre (built by the hotel to handle accommodation of sudden influx of guests), situated sixty meters away. 
 
At 12:20 pm the food tables (cutlery, decorations, etc.) were set. Many speakers had started coming in. In the afternoon, showcasing the best Gauri-Nayanika duo, Gucci and Jimmy Choo had to offer, and was to speak on the occasion about the act of Sushi. The countdown for the climax had begun by then. The author starts focusing on the timings and the respective developments. Like tick, tick 10, tick tick 8, 7, …1. Towards the end of this chapter, in the last two para, he introduces the “hukkum ka ikkaa” the tragedy element. A simple electronic signal from a 100-metres away pressed after the songs were over, exploded the a low grade putty-like-explosive stuck with a pencil detonator with radio frequency (which was fixed by the window cleaner a day before). 13th February, 2016, as many consider it to be the common unluckiest day of the year, actually prove to be the same as the seed of devastation was planted that day. 
 
Immediately after the explosion happened, within 34 seconds, and before anyone could comprehend what was actually going on, four people slid into the hall from the crashed or exploded point on the top through their plastic ropes. They were armed, wore jackets and looked ferocious. They pulled out their weapons and with a blink of an eye, took the powerful group as hostages. The chapter ends here just like a television soap’s episode. Chapter two begins at 3:52 pm, while Daulat counted the six uninvited guests; one with a pistol and magazine sticking out in an unusual manner, and another one with a handgun. Author takes a step further by explaining the specifications of the pistols and other weapons. He mentions that they were holding 9mm handgun like Browning, Colt or Beretta, which usually keeps ten to twelve rounds .  9mm bullets-format is simple as they can be fitted in any other weapon, so the magazine can be interchanged across various guns when needed. Huh, at least they had more sense than many character as shown in the Bollywood movies, who die due to the exhaustion of the bullets, and time scarcity to interchange the magazines. Among the six terrorists was Salim. He had fixed, vigilant and piercing eyes. Towards the middle of this chapter, you will find him instructing Daulat about giving a mobile phone with stolen SIM card to someone, with a lot of careful instructions as well as telling him about their intentions to attack the food and beverages in the kitchen, and hog upon it.
 
Before that, ladies receive some video footages through the Bluetooth to be forwarded to their husband. Salim, here acts like a scarecrow who tries to scare the hell out of anyone, anytime. Think of the hostages. While Madhuri did the video recording, Salim indicated at the C-4 putty packs, detonators, video camera with a pencil, and more. Amidst this chaos, the author appoints one of the brave characters of the plot,  Ms. Rini Mitra, a 35-year-old lady and the wife of John Mitra. She is scared, not for herself, but for the fact that her office was not able to extract any intel of the terrorist attack. She was keenly waiting of the intels to send a message to her husband. 
 
Here, Salim began threatening women, by telling them that the explosion can also swallow their lives and riches. But Ms. Rini, consistently tries to collect some intels, and stays immensely vigilant. She starts looking for the cues. And, the first cue was that “Dixit” was the dictionary definition of silence, and didn’t leave the heels of Madhuri, and followed her like a shadow. She also tried to note the accents from the word, “Kashmir”. The terrorists pronounced it as “Kshmeer”, and Rina wants to figure out if he is speaking English, French or Hindustani. In the next chapter, the author traces back to 12th February, 2016, in an attempt to put the puzzle pieces in place. The Lobster and Casablanca were all theirs as long an they are pleased to have it. The story further goes back to 25 October, 2015, and is set on the third floor of the Commercial Complex. A business card was exchanged between a client, hotel La Vie, and the commercial office complex. It has details in English on one side and in Japanese on the other. A thirty-year old woman greeted with Japanese. All of this collectively resulted in a six-room office on the fifteenth floor, hired by M//S Japanese firm, M/S Sumi. It also travels to the unluckiest day.
 
Chapter four starts at 12:35pm, on 11th February, 2016, at the hotel check-in time. It starts with four diminutive men with a bulky lady wearing a hat and sunglasses. She tossed her ID card and passport, and mentioned about it to one of her followers, Sathya to do the formalities, while she can peacefully have  a cup of coffee. Now, Who is Sathya? You must be wondering. Read the next chapter to know his story. 
The story flows smoothly with a lot of recaps and interrelated interpretations, so the readers can find the key to each sequence of acts. This format reminds me of the format of an American television series, namely, “Arrow”, where the protagonist (after escaping from a lonely island, where he led a torturous life for five years) tries to save the city from wrong people with his skills yet in every instance, he subconsciously or willingly recalls the related moments of the five sabbatical years on the island. This fiction falls in the same format. In chapter twelve, he describes the year 1989 as the year of “uncertain central governments and political affiliations; of unsure friends and knives up every sleeve. Of caste and religious divides. Of hung assemblies and Parliament. Of Brutus in everyone and Caesar in none…”. This chapter focuses on a threatening and ransom-demanding letter shared with Rajbir Gujjar (straight forwardly using his name) of Khurja-Bulandsher (native), was an “unlikely and undisputed monicker of the Handsome dacoit. His father was believed to be the first owner of AK-76 in the western UP. He was demanded a sum of two crores and convert them into the denominations of hundred rupees or lesser. Here, the author throws a pun in to light by saying that Rajbir wasn’t addressed dramatically as it happens in the Hindi movies like “black scorpion” or “king cobra”, but with his own name – clear cut. However, this incident led to a serious discussion with the Chief Minister, at his house, as it was considered to be the safest place. Fifteenth chapter moves back to the hostage situation, and Chauhan’s entry in the story in a full-fledged manner happens. 
 
The flow of the story makes it a captivating experience what appeals to me more in this fiction is its relate-ability quotient. The author’s way of approaching and describing the events has touch-based with the ground realities. It makes the story more believable, especially, for the Delhiites, as the entire story is set in Delhi. 
 
The thought-stirring capabilities of the author comes out of the effect of elements gyring together as well as distinctively in their own different phases of the story’s flow. They are: realistic touch; elaborative approach; measured results; thoughtful placements of each object and character involved; transparency; tinge of humour; and a positive frame. The author has, quite specifically, placed each and everything in a background after measuring its impact, even if it’s a coffee mug. And, by measured, I also mean that his, probably, his Physics-dexterity that laid foundation of his academics, also, plays a pivotal role here. Everything, like the timings, 2:05 pm, 3:25 pm, etc., without actually rounding up is mentioned vividly (seems like he is very particular about the timings), and instances like, “sixty meters away…” 
 
Additionally, he has tried to keep the impression of IPSOWA the way it is, by also talking a lot about the brands. You get to come across many brand names, including Zara, Mango, etc. The author’s way of taking the readers to a flashback is another brilliant ability to make readers be able to independently relate, correlate, analyse and understand the flow of the events or incidences, which is why the author has also requested all to read this book twice. Ironically, the incidents took place in the time of horror, while many in the world celebrated their time of love and affection.
 
The book, “The Perfect Suicide”, a #Nine series thriller, is dedicated to the integrity and discipline of all uniformed forces. Soon, the author will be coming up with his second book, “The Dog Who Spoke Too Much”.