The dark, underbelly of Mumbai has attracted many storytellers and filmmakers. Generally such crime stories are about the underworld or some serial killer. As the title of author Jerry Pinto’s novel is Murder In Mahim, you expect another whodunnit murder mystery.
The story is about Peter, a retired journalist staying near Shivaji Park, who gets to know that his son Sunil might be homosexual. Just as he and his wife Millie are trying to come to terms to it in case it turns out to be true, a gruesome murder takes place inside the toilet of the Matunga Road Railway Station.
Peter has a habit of accompanying his close friend Inspector Jende in investigating crimes. He does the same while investigating this murder too. What looked like another murder turns out to be the starting point of a mystery that runs deep into the dark, homosexual world of Mumbai, which we hardly get to notice [The book was written when Section 377 was not absolved].
The initial portions of the book itself make it ample clear that the novel is much more than a mere murder mystery. The murder and the type of crime explored in the novel stand apart from other stories on crimes in Mumbai. It is real but at the same time surprising enough even for Mumbaikars staying in the city for decades.
Like, how many of us know that gay prostitution is so common in Mumbai and that railway station toilets are known spots for the same? And that there are various unofficial spots in the city where unknown gay men meet up to have a good time? Likewise, Pinto’s geographical knowledge of Mumbai, especially where the story is based, is top-notch too [having stayed in the same locality, I can vouch for that].
The author’s narrative is the clear winner here as it tackles police’s role in solving murders, social commentary on homosexuality and the lives of the underprivileged. He has woven all these aspects naturally into the narrative with not a single one of them being the odd-man out. The book also fulfils the criteria of a whodunnit taking you by surprise with a revelation in the end.
Along with the geography of a city, it is also important to know the type of conversations that would take place over there, irrespective in what language your book is. This is another plus point here as the dialogue between the characters are real, interesting and, at times, amusing. This is seen the most during the conversations during the investigation.
There aren’t major negative points, except slight complication with the plot in some areas. But I have an issue with the title. The murders take place in the toilet of Matunga Road Railway Station, so why is the book is named Murder In Mahim? One might argue that the jurisdiction comes under Mahim Police Station [as claimed in the book] but the crime has nevertheless happened in Matunga.
Overall: Murder In Mahim is a well-crafted tale of murders that also makes a strong social statement.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Author: Jerry Pinto
Review By: Keyur Seta