Book: Cosmic Clues
Author: Manjiri Prabhu
Number of pages: 315
Price: Rs. 299
“India’s first astro-detective,” instantly caught my attention on Cosmic Clues’ cover. It had me intrigued enough to want to read it. And sure enough, Manjiri Prabhu weaves an interesting tale of a detective agency that combines astrological science with investigations. It is a simple idea, and a simple tale. And that’s where I was disappointed; an interesting premise but a predictable plot.
Sonia Samarth runs Stellar Investigations, where private investigations are guided by Hindu astrology. She is ably helped by Jatin, her ardent detective-cum-office assistant. She also relies on the support of Inspector Divekar, whom she fondly calls Jeevan Uncle, a dear friend of her father, to help strengthen her instincts and intuitions, thereby adding an air of professionalism and legitimacy to her operations.
Sonia is extremely clear on what she is offering and how she intends to help her clients. No false promises, no over-the-top commitments. Just an honest reading of horoscopes of all the parties concerned, in order to arrive at logical deductions and a series of possibilities, after which she lets the police take over. She moves on from one case to the other with ease, taking the care to avoid getting embroiled in her clients’ personal lives.
And that’s how the story flows. It’s largely a linear point as Sonia moves on from one case to another. It is a carefully constructed plot, with few twists and little intrigue. There are some interesting cases that come along Sonia’s way but they do little to salvage the writing or the predictability of the plot. I would have liked to know how Sonia is outside of work, her passions besides astrology, her likes and dislikes; et al. But Prabhu paints a very one-dimensional protagonist.
The only time I was able to glimpse Sonia’s emotions and insecurities was on page 114, “Dare she meddle with people’s lives on the basis of unsubstantiated suspicion? How could she be certain that her horoscopic revelations were not colored by Aarti’s* hysterics?” And then Sonia becomes as closed up as before. Ever the careful and efficient investigator.
The writing is amateurish and sloppy in bits, leaving the reader to connect some dots. The cover states that the book is soon to be a major motion picture. I think writing of this sort would be more suited for that medium. Much of the book is a pure narration of events. I look forward to the movie.
But I liked how Cosmic Clues steered clear of venerating astrology or placing it on a pedestal. The protagonist merely relies on the cues provided by astrology. At no point in time does she take the law in her hands.
Cosmic Clues is a light, racy and entertaining read. The kind you can read on your way back home from work. Or curl up with it one weekend afternoon with a bag of chips and play detective.
*Aarti is Sonia’s client.
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