Sunday, May 14, 2023

Book Review: Evoked- The Lavasa Incident by Mansi Babbar

Twin sisters who are as different as chalk and cheese live in the idyllic town of Lavasa, one of them outgoing and the other a loner who refuses to fit in. When one of them dies, it triggers a series of mysterious deaths that rattle the quaint town. Only Inspector Mohite suspects that there is a connection between all the deaths, and if he isn't able to connect the dots soon, more dead bodies will pile up.

Evoked: The Lavasa Incident by Mansi Babbar is a book that is part of the series Ravi Subramanian Presents, published by Harper Collins India. I have reviewed two crime novels, The Bankster and God is a Gamer, by Ravi Subramanian before. While reading them, I felt that English crime writing in India was ready to take a huge leap, thanks to such efforts. But that leap never came, probably due to a deluge of extremely well-written novels on Indian mythology that conquered the market and readers' attention.

Years later, I am happy to see that Ravi Subramanian has not discarded his efforts and is trying twice as hard to bring crime fiction back to the forefront. In this initiative called Ravi Subramanian Presents, I believe he is mentoring talented writers to produce crime fiction that does what it is supposed to do: thrill. In his own words, he is aiming for thrillers on steroids, which Mansi Babbar has delivered with this no-frills, all-thrills story that chugs on like a bullet train from start to end.

There is an intention behind every book, movie, or work of art. Any evaluation of that work should be primarily based on how well it has met its intended purpose. If that is met, we can conclude that the attempt has worked well. The intention of this book is to give its reader the pleasure of reading a fast-paced plot packed with action and intrigue on every page. Evoked passes that test with flying colours. It makes good on Ravi Subramanian's promise and then does some more.

The plot is relentlessly quick in its progression. Its ending is satisfactory and then leaves the possibility to explore more of the book's strongest points in a sequel. The narration is thrilling, trimmed, and refuses to beat around the bush. The format of the book doesn't give much scope for plot development or characterization. The weakest part of the book is the first few pages that are devoted to these two formalities. Once the action kicks in, reading goes into auto-mode until the climax.

But the cherry on top of the reading experience of Evoked is the psychological manipulation done by its antagonist. I am not revealing more as it may lead to spoilers. That character takes the entire plot on its shoulders. In a thriller that relies on action alone, it is a brave effort to use such a narrative device without compromising the pacing of the plot. The writer has to be appreciated for having the conviction to follow this path.

A reader who is on a journey—a train ride or a flight—or has a lazy evening ahead can pick up Evoked by Manasi Babbar and have a great time.

I thank the Writersmelon team and the publisher for the review copy.

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