Author: Vinaya Bhagat
Publisher: Harper Black
“It lurks in the shadows. It lives in your worst nightmares. It feeds on your deepest fears. It’s the master trickster, and it’s coming to get you.”
This is how the book blurb to Vinaya Bhagat’s first novel Trickster begins. You read the title, then this blurb, and you could be forgiven for thinking of the Norse god Loki. The blurb goes on to explain how the Chakwa—not Loki—is the master trickster and might be out to get Diya Mathur, the protagonist.
The blurb is intriguing enough to make you pick up the book; add to that the urban legend of Marathi monster of lore, Chakwa, a thrill-seeker might not want to skip this. As the blurb suggests, the book opens with Diya Mathur’s parents, Meera and Manu, dying in a car accident in Boston. Apart from these three, the mysterious Chakwa also appears whose weird footprints are to be found near the accident site and later on, throughout the book, as a motif for all the horrors that are witnessed in its wake.
It is a thriller through and through—nothing out of the ordinary, though—with enough drama and suspense in each chapter to keep the reader hooked. Bhagat’s grasp of the plotline is tight—though at times it does meander—which is an achievement for a debut novelist.
Bhagat seems to have stuck with the salient features of a good thriller: a good story, a likeable (and emotionally scarred) protagonist, an action-packed opening scene and chapter, cliff-hangers at the end of the most chapters, and a fearsome nasty villain. Bhagat has also put in the usual sleepy-but-picturesque town where all the terribleness unfolds. The town, however, remains unnamed throughout except for the clues that it has coffee-estates. According to Bhagat, she wanted the place to be wherever he reads wants it to be—along with Diya’s blossoming relationships with those around her.
While you may feel sorry for Diya, you cannot help, but be a little surprised of the way she jumps onto a plane to come to India—a place she has never been to before, only to meet her supposed uncle and family. But, in her defence, everyone processes grief differently and she has been recently orphaned.
The main characters in Bhagat’s book are interesting and uncomplicated. However, Bhagat (or even her editor) could have done well without peppering too many characters into the book. The novel is primarily from Diya’s point-of-view, so you will always know what she is thinking and feeling; and for a 17-year-old, she seems slightly more mature and wiser. Although, whether that has to do with her American upbringing or the unexpected loss remains a mystery throughout. There are a few ‘feelings’ made known by the villain almost in every chapter.
The plot twist wasn’t much of a twist if the reader has been paying attention to all the ‘backstory’ that unravels in the 300-plus pages.
The only gripe that you could have is that the end reads a bit rushed. Instead of a powerful knockout punch, the end of the mystery seems like an easy tap-out. Bhagat seems to have missed out the ‘epic ending’ feature of a good thriller. Even though the build-up to the climax is fast-paced, the end is somewhat disappointing. The epilogue—even though it is not called that—neatly explains the loose ends to those who might not have been too attuned into the plot, but still leaves a few questions unanswered. Threads to be picked on during a sequel? Probably.
All in all, Trickster is a fun and engaging plot, with a stimulating and gratifying read, and looks to be on the way to be a bestseller.