Sudha Ramnath’s Susp’ENDED is a collection of ten short stories that end with twists, hence the word ‘suspense’ in the title. I am a fan of Whodunits, and I read this in one go trying to guess the murderer or the reveal for each tale. In most cases, I wasn’t successful, which speaks volumes about the author’s writing and her ability to maintain an element of unpredictability throughout.
Each story carries a distinct Agatha Christie-Esque flavor and incorporates red herrings. The reader becomes a sleuth and tries to decipher the mystery. This book is a potpourri of different genres- there are elements of conventional thrillers, some magic realism, some paranormal, and the typical murder mystery. It’s hard to pick favorites in this collection, but if I had to shortlist my top three, these would be Mission Failed, Hotel Dilbahar, and the House on Tiger Hill.
‘Mission Failed’ builds the plotline rather unconventionally. Everyone hates the new tenant Sheila, right from the friendly dog to the neighborhood children. This is despite her being a model citizen with a good temperament. Yet, no one can explain why they feel this animosity toward her. The reveal is jaw-dropping; the reader discovers who Sheila is, and why her mission failed; I did not see that coming.
‘Hotel Dilbahar’ is my absolute favorite. It incorporates elements of science fiction and time travel. The protagonist, Rahul, goes back in time to understand his aunt’s secret. He tries to seek information to set things right, as she feels guilty for a crime she did not commit. The story is set against the backdrop of a music competition, and takes the reader along an intriguing journey, one that starts from Guru Dutt and Dev Anand, and ends in the present day, to an emotional finish.
House on Tiger Hill is not a story with an unexpected twist or reveal. But it is deeply haunting and stays with you even after reading it. You feel Geetha’s anguish and her joy at the new arrival in her life. A part of her craves to be a mother, and she finds solace in the ghost of a young child that haunts her house. This story is touching and one of the most unconventional paranormal stories I have read. I had a lump in my throat once I finished reading this one.
Sudha Ramnath is a wonderful writer whose rich travel experiences shine through each story. Her stories take you to Ooty, Coimbatore, Lonavla, and even Africa. The language is simple, and the narrative fast paced. This book is only about 127 pages, making it a quick and entertaining read.
Do pick this one for the thrills and bends along the ride!
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