Book Reviews by a Pioneer: The Ambassador and the Private Eye by Krishnan Srinivasan

Genre: Detective Short Stories

Rating: 3.75/5

Koel Deb lost her left arm shattered by a stray bullet during police operation. She was fitted with a bionic steel hand and assigned to desk duty. Her calling was field work. She quit police job and started her private investigation agency. She has a sharp memory and rides her Harley motorcycle. She is the private eye.

Michael Marco retired as a diplomat for his native country, Somalia, and lives in a hotel in Kolkata, waiting to return back to his native land, on completion of legal and paper formalities for his charitable foundation. He is no detective, but has an analytical mind.

The two form an unlikely pair to solve a variety of criminal cases.

The book contains 12 short stories, though the last one is slightly longer – more like a mini novella, each devoted to a case solved by the two. A coded message received by a newspaper from somewhere on the Western front, which could be scoop for them; theft of diamonds and slot machines from a film studio with a dead body in the warehouse; a person handling finances of terrorists is murdered; a plane crashes due to explosion mid-air and Koel is shot at when she goes to investigate; a young woman working in a coffee shop, whom Koel befriends, is thrown out of her apartment window; a middle-aged man seeks closure of a death in college 15 years earlier during a college re-union; murder of a handyman in the basement of an old-age home in Kolkata; a leading lady is pushed in the river during an overnight cruise; payment of ransom money to abductors of the daughter of a leading businessman; a middle-aged woman goes missing from her hotel room without any trace and is subsequently found clobbered to death in a cramped closet in the same hotel; a young woman engages Koel to prove the innocence of her fiancé arrested in the shootout and death of the chemist’s wife; and the final story about the return of the wayward stepson 24 years after he disappeared, still unreformed – the parents wonder if he is really the son that they had lost.

Koel is retained to investigate these cases. She observes accurately what she sees, but is unable to conclude. She goes back to Marco with all details. The diplomat with his incisive analysis, solves the cases, sitting in the coffee shop of his hotel. This is where the stories disappointed me – I wanted Koel to be our Holmes with Marco playing Watson. A few of the crimes seem too frivolous to merit murder. But then, people have been known to commit murder for reasons that may appear trivial to us.

The stories are well written, the narrative leading up to the climax. A one time fast paced read.

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