Piggies on the Railway by Smita Jain

14 Jul

My verdict: Appallingly bad. I went looking for a murder mystery and got something that’s along the lines of Bridget Jones meets Nancy Drew meets Sex and the City with some Mills and Boon thrown in. I’m definitely the wrong audience for this. Chick-lit is not what I go for. So why did I read it, you ask?

For one thing, I avoid being influenced by publicity for books. I refuse to read reviews of books by well-known personalities. (See this article on the etiquette of blurbs). Basically, I live under a rock and had not heard of Smita Jain before.

For another, I’m a sucker for mysteries. So when I read this article in the Hindu Metroplus about Indian Whodinuts, I bought it hook, line and sinker. But sadly, I have nothing good to say about the first one from this list that I happened to read –  Piggies on the Railway. Now, if this had been classified only as chick-lit, I would have had no grouse with it, because I would have never read it. But the murder mystery part got me. Sub-consciously I was expecting something like No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.

Maybe I should have had an inkling:

  1. The title of the book – a callous, mean, gruesome nursery rhyme
  2. The pink book cover
  3. It was classified as chick-lit

But I ignored these points because the fact that the Hindu Metroplus feature put it into the Whodinut category is what stuck with me.

Wanting to get my hands on it in a hurry, I turned to Flipkart and ordered online. Well, I got one good thing from this book – I had a great first experience with them. They delivered within 3 days of ordering, as promised. They also have the Cash on Delivery option, allowing me to avoid the painful step of putting in all the card details. (Aside: this book was Rs 221 when I bought it last week. The price is now Rs. 236)

So, getting back to the book – it’s the first of the Kasthuri Kumar series. A detective, Kasthuri, called Katie, if you please, is India’s answer to… No, there is no comparison I can make! She has two left feet and is constantly stuffing them into her oversized mouth. Now I’m all for a bumbling character who is loveable, but this character – I can only think how brainless, ditzy and stupidly slutty* she is. Just not believable or likable. Especially since she is a detective and an ex-cop. If Jain was trying to make this character quirky, I’d say she missed by a huge mark. Instead she has created a character I won’t root for. The annoyances add up until you’re ready to throttle this idiotic half-wit.

She is fashion obsessed and pays undue attention to appearance and fashion labels. Every cute guy in the story sets her heart racing and she makes a fool of herself over them as often as she walks into a beauty parlour (a lot). Katie throws out references from every TV series ever made. If her life were really as busy as the novel makes it out, she should not have had any time to watch television. If I were to take story more seriously, I’d say the character sullies the name of all women, and detectives, especially women detectives.

The author would have us believe that a PI in the gritty Mumbai setting is more concerned about her hair, make-up and fashion labels than fitness, health, and solving crime.  Katie then gets pissed off when people don’t take her seriously… Come on, who would? Homosexuality, adultery, lecherous old men, transvestites, prostitution – she’s thrown in all in. What has she saved for the rest of the series, I wonder!

So why did I bother finishing the book, you may ask. Perverse curiosity perhaps. Jain is a good writer, that I’ll grant. She weaves her words wonderfully (excuse the alliteration) and if my expectations hadn’t been so off the mark, I might have enjoyed the book… maybe…

The mystery itself is rather sad – more of a placeholder for the scandal, sex and glamour. The plot is dragged out to fill the 400 pages while it needed less than 200 to wind it up. But the focus was hardly the mystery. The body count piles up pretty fast and our protagonist is too busy getting a facial to see what is staring her in the eye.

From all I’ve read, I think this is the only “bad” review that the book got. And it’s not even a drop in the ocean and will not affect Smita Jain or Kasthuri Kumar since there are three and a half of you who bother to read my blog!

I won’t be going back for any of this author’s books again.

If a meaty murder mystery is what you’re after, stay away. Far away! If easy chick-lit is what you’re in the mood for, I have no doubt you’ll love it.

* She manages to sleep with all the wrong guys – if she were having fun, I’d say, “You go, girl!”. But every sexual encounter leaves her feeling guilty and confused. Why bother?


One Response to “Piggies on the Railway by Smita Jain”

  1. Sakhi July 15, 2010 at 4:17 pm #

    Nice review.
    Will definitely run in the other direction when I spot this book.

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