Friday, October 27, 2017


Title: Partho, the Unconventional Investigator -- The Mystery of the Missing Bags
Author: Rajib Mukherjee
Publisher: Kindle Edition (Self published)
Pages: 113
My GoodReads rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Partho, the Unconventional Investigator – The mystery of the missing bags was a sweet and charming story.

The story is written in the first person of Dev, whose background closely resembles that of the author. Dev’s sister, Ria, is married to Partho. Ria babies her husband, and Partho, Dev tells us, loves it.

Even though Dev tells us at the very outset that I never intended to be the Watson to any Holmes, that is exactly what he ends up becoming. Partho Ghosh is the Sherlock Holmes to Dev’s Dr Watson.

The events of the story begin inoffensively enough with Dev’s interest in an ad in the local paper relating to a black Travel Pro bag, exchanged by mistake at the airport.

The desire to solve this mystery catapults Partho and Dev into deep adventure and mortal danger, when gangsters called the Alfariqs become involved. What seems like a harmless investigation into missing bags for want of something better to do soon assumes grave overtones. 

The author puts in some interesting twists and turns, as the story picks up speed. What heightens the tension is the fact that one of the key characters has made a living will, and the mystery must be resolved within ten days, before the will decrees termination of his life support system.

On his way to fleshing out this charming mystery, the author touches upon some fascinating subjects such as living wills, the challenges inherent in archaeology and hudud law.

Partho, the desi Holmes, was adorable. I liked the traits with which the author sought to build him up. His practice of yoga and meditation, his ability to picture things in his mind as also his quirky personality, his endearing vulnerability (he shivers and is nursed by his wife in an almost motherly fashion) and his ability to design amazing gadgets that would cause James Bond to feel envious.

He isn’t, however, as unconventional as the author would have us believe. In fact, he follows quite closely in the convention of Sherlock Holmes.

In fact, in the vein of Holmes, he also leaves us with one bit of wisdom when he describes death as a change of state. He adds, Does the liquid water fear death when it changes to vapor or to ice? Not a single drop of water ever disappeared from the face of the planet; life, like that water droplet, is everlasting and imperishable.

The Baker’s Street sleuth, it was often said, lacked a woman’s benign influence in his life. Here, the author amends the situation with Ria. Ria serves as a good foil to him, following up on his ideas with her painstaking research and sound common sense.

They are supported by a colourful ensemble of characters such as Ryan, who does not mind sharing the credit, and Ahluwalia, the lawyer, besides Chandan Chatterjee, Thomas, Begum Sahiba etc. Of these other characters, I liked Ryan and Ahluwalia, both of who have the potential to walk out of this book and into another.

Ahluwalia’s character, all pretend cloak-and-dagger, was rendered more interesting on account of his needling of Ryan, the copy, and the cheeky aphorisms he spouts, which the narrator describes as his fortune cookie bits of wisdom.

These aphorisms are:
Face value has no value.

A man who measures life never knows his own measure.

And my favourite, There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.

And of course, who would write Partho’s adventures down but Dev?

Dev’s character was also well drawn. He has a thirst for adventure which dies as soon as the adventure leads him into awkward situations. Like Watson, he attempts to deduce facts from the sketchiest of information but misses the mark by a wide margin.

The only parts that seemed incomplete were the descriptions of locales. They came across as half-done.

The Middle East is not a region that I am familiar with and so I can’t comment on the descriptions with any certainty. But I found it strange that the fierce Islamists would take the desecration of a graveyard so lightly.

Also, the author has not indicated whether the graveyard is Christian or Muslim. Since the locale is Abu Dhabi, I assumed it is Muslim. If that is so, then the imagery of a cross on the grave, as displayed on the cover, is highly incorrect. The author should have pointed out which it is clearly.

Since the story is based in Kolkata for a large part, it would have been nice if Kolkata had played a greater role in the story. Few cities have as much character as Kolkata, and the author should consider bringing out the character of the city, if he ever thinks of a sequel.

There was one other error I spotted when they are all discussing their plans for Abu Dhabi. Tom asks, “Who goes and who stays?” and Ryan responds, “I believe Partho and you should go.” Since Tom has asked the question, it seems reasonable to think the ‘you’ refers to him. It is only when Dev speaks up that one realizes that Ryan was referring to Dev. This confusion could have been avoided.

These errors, however, do not take away from the pace of the book. Once it starts, the story rushes headlong with one thing leading quickly to another, and the original mystery of the missing travel bag finding its resolution in an event that, at first sight, seems completely far-fetched. 

Just like Holmes, it is Partho who helps us see the links between the seemingly unrelated events. It is as much his smart thinking as his gizmos that save the day for him and Dev.

The book was entertaining. Partho is the sort of character that can grow on a reader. I hope this isn’t his only adventure.

(I read a Kindle edition of this book through NetGalley.)

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