END OF STORY?- A REVIEW
End of Story? is an entertaining page turner by Arjun Shekhar ,published by Hachette India, which in the course of its 325 crisply written pages, incorporates media shenanigans, unscrupulous advertisements, corporate skullduggery, land acquisition scams, farmers suicides, dubious godmen, in fact all the current news that’s ‘Sansanikhed!’
In fact, the protagonist, Shukrat Ali , is the anchor of a ‘Sansanikhed’ news channel, surviving on tabloid type sensational breaking news. He is quite unheroic, being a weak, unambitious alcoholic in a failed marriage, and a blind follower of his ruthless boss. His salvation is his precocious hyper inquisitive and very bright pre teen daughter, and love for his boss’s autistic sister.
The story unfolds as a flashback, with the narrator rehearsing for his turn on the witness stand in the trial for his boss’s murder. We therefore get to hear only his version as he wishes the court to know, to avoid culpability in the crime and be plausible while covering the known facts.
This is an interesting technique in storytelling. The reader is kept guessing as to the truth. Current topics come in. An innovative explanation is given for the recent spurt in social awareness and activism. Paranormal activities are thrown in. Action shifts from Delhi to the tribal hinterland of Maharashtra. Big business and the nexus with both the establishment and the media is explored. Sidelights into tribal life, small town media, battle for TRP, School PTAs, gurus and relationship issues are thrown in to spice the plot, but does not dilute the narrative flow.
The murdered CEO is Syotti Sachi Sengupto, constantly keeps correcting peoples pronunciation of his name. The child,Q,asks innumerable questions which set you thinking. Both these snippets ring totally true and must have been based on real life characters. To maintain the ambiguous nature of the narrative, all chapter headings are questions, as is the title, and the plot keeps the reader guessing. Revealing more will be tantamount to a spoiler alert, and that’s the worst crime in a crime fiction. The most I can reveal is that the anticipated twists in the tale are there in the tail, and then some. As an added bonus, it is quite funny, although of the dark variety, getting quite black in the end.
Let us welcome a new spinner of whodunits of the Comedy Noir School, to add variety to the stable of Indian English fiction. Good value for the Rs 350 you spend.