Of all the things that being a Hindu entails, confusion is probably a significant one I’ve dealt with all my life. You see Hinduism has a lot of gods. There’s the Holy Trinity, their wives and children. Followed by a structure similar to a corporate hierarchy that has many many gods. The one thing I was told surely was that we were Vaishnavaites – devotees of Vishnu and most, or all, of his re-incarnations. But I have been taken along to Shiva temples and worshipped him as well. Besides if there is one massive benefit of being a Hindu, it’s the temple visit.
For obvious reasons, we all love the temple prasad, but every temple is unique. I’ve been to temples that were brand new and ones that were, allegedly, worshipped by gods and legends themselves. And where there is history, there is bound to be art. Every aspect of such temples is created with care. Be it the mural paintings of Kerala or the murals in Thanjavur’s Periya Kovil or magnificence of the Sun Temple at Konark – there is something unique about every temple. If the exterior is such, the deity was given more thought. Every temple has its own idol and there are enough tales to write a book on each of them. It is no doubt the cause for awe-inspiring reverence and gut-clenching greed. The latter has often led to many articles in the newspapers about misappropriation and theft.
Divya Kumar in her book, The Shrine of Death, deals with idol theft. Prabha is an IT employee taking a sabbatical when she hears from a long lost friend, Sneha, who is in distress. Following her instinct, Prabha tries to help Sneha and sets off to find her. As she finds out more about Sneha’s life in the recent past, she makes new friends and develops a penchant for investigation. For someone who was working a desk job, randomly writing lines of code, solving a puzzle would be enticing. As Prabha retraces Sneha’s footsteps, she unearths a crime that would perhaps have gone unsolved, if not unnoticed. A few statues have gone missing from a recently discovered temple. Her friend’s disappearance and the idol theft are both connected. That’s about it I can divulge without giving away spoilers.
Now, The Shrine of Death is a very well-paced story. You can even figure out who the culprit is before it is revealed, but you’ll still want to read to the end. Unlike a typical thriller, Divya Kumar has managed to infuse romance and crime. Prabha, during the course of finding things out, ends up falling for the investigating officer. Anyway, all’s well that ends well for these two. The Shrine of Death is not your average thriller. In recent times there have been a few books that have dealt with the topic of idol theft and crimes in temples. The Shrine of Death differs from these in one aspect. There is not a lot of history amongst these pages, instead one finds a lot of different people and emotions. While we have encountered century-old tales in other books, that has been kept to a minimum in The Shrine of Death. As for the characters, we find a few very alike us, and then there are those whom we may not be able to relate to.
As the final puzzle pieces fit in, the reader gets a clearer picture of the hows and the whys. And of course the what-for – Money! The Shrine of Death was a very quick read. Its pace and writing were in sync and made for an enjoyable read. Definitely recommend!
My rating: 3 of 5 stars