Reading Dr. Mitra’s second mystery novel, If There Wasn’t Death, (I did not read the second and the third mystery novels in the four novel Manhattan Murder series), I was pleased to find a quality expansion over his first mystery novel, A Very Insipid Passion. The new book has been structured better and has superior literary flavor.
There have been three reported suicides of three divorced women and the standard intelligence team of this mystery series: Dr. Sandy Bloorwise, Dr. Martin, Halley Willard, and Dobbelia Smith, are locked in intense debate on Dr. Bloorwise’s intuition that they might be murders, which is very off common sense of the two of his experienced colleagues. (The wizard sleuth, Halley Willard, has limited exposure in this novel). How the plot moves and whether Sandy Bloorwise’s hunch is right is the essence of the novel
The craftsmanship of the plot is brilliant. As a mystery novel, it is fast paced and filled with suspense, but like the peeling of an onion, the author goes on methodically and deftly to unravel the mystery. In the hands of Dr. Mitra the novel rises above a typical mystery, as it is suffused with literary language, observations on human nature, and elaborate personality profiles. Dr. Mitra has done fine work with the delineation of Dobbelia Smith’s and Sandy Bloorwise’s personalities. But he is not as successful with Dr. Martin’s personality, who remains pretty much a mystery figure. I hope in the subsequent novels he weaves the fabric of his personality also. The end of the book is surprising, even strange.
Most of the book is anchored in dialogs, which are generally well done, and not in actions. Conversations, drinks, foods are the oil that keeps the team moving forward. Sometimes, one wonders that the sleuths are consuming too much alcohol for their own and public’s good. Author’s keen knowledge of mystery literature is well displayed here. I am not a mystery reader, generally, and can not place Dr. Mitra’s place in the pantheon of mystery writers, but there is no doubt in my mind that he is a very skilled writer and has produced an exquisite mystery novel. It sure is gripping and entertaining. We are keenly looking forward to his next novel, which might be even better than this, because we like his work and want him to rise in his stature even higher.