Any book on a notorious serial killer is bound to be intriguing. When the killer is extremely intelligent and is tracked down by a tireless and brainier detective, the premise makes for a racy plot with plenty of twists and turns. In that sense, Bhaskar Chattopadhyay’s Patang does justice to the genre.
The novel opens with relentless rain lashing Mumbai when a serial killer unleashes terror by murdering unrelated people and executing the killers in a particular motif leaving clues along the way. As the murders make news and rattle the cops, the protagonist of the story, a private detective named Chandrakant Rathod is roped in by the Mumbai police to track down the killer. The rest of the plot follows the serial killer as he goes on a murder spree and an insomniac Rathod tracking him down by trying to understand the mind of the killer.
Somewhere along the middle of the novel, the killer is nabbed and Rathod returns to tracking down petty criminals for the police which seems to be his only job. However, a few months later more murders take place in the same motif confusing the police and spreading panic among the public. Rathod who is tired of nabbing pick pockets and local goons, decides to take on the challenge and the rest of the novel follows the detective as he tries to solve the latest spurt of murders in Mumbai.
While Rathod is convincing as a lonely, never-give-up private detective whose drive is such that he does not ever sleep until he finishes his job, the Mumbai police dependence on a private hand to solve their most high profile cases giving an outsider a free hand and access to all aspects of investigation seem a little unconvincing. Also, the jailed serial killer’s understanding of the second spate of murders and the person behind it seems too farfetched. To the author’s credit, all murders committed by the serial killer Tony Mathew are original and cleverly crafted. Besides Rathod and Mathew, all other characters are minor and merely aid in taking the story forward.
Towards the end of the book, as Rathod moves closer and closer to the person behind the second spate of murders, the audience also gets a peek into the love life of Rathod as he struggles to maintain a balance between his work and love without the help of a dual identity. The book gathers momentum towards the end and has enough surprises to keep the reader hooked.