Detective novels are something that I am not familiar with, but I seem to like them the more I read. While I read a couple of James Hadley Chase novels a few years ago, Sir Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series was my true exposure to the genre. While I’ve been in awe of Sherlock Holmes, Amar Sagar from Case No. 56 seemed more relatable. Chandrashekar Nagawaram’s debut novel is almost like a classic thriller movie. It takes you from one scene to the other, building tension gradually before a mind-blowing climax.
Summary of Case No. 56
Case No. 56 revolves around the mysterious death of Kishore, the business manager of the Shinde family. The Shinde clan is a powerful business family in Hyderabad, with their clutches deeper in the system than what appears. The body found dead on the terrace of the family’s mansion leaves everyone guessing. To solve the mystery, the head of the family Mrs Thilothama Shinde, summons renowned detective, Amar Sagar.
The death seems like an accident on the face, and nothing present indicates foul play. However, as Amar delves deeper into the accident, he opens the pandora’s box! The possibility of murder surfaces and all the family members are under suspicion. Including Thilothama Shinde, the matriarch of the family. As the mystery unfolds, we witness the dark side of the business family, quite reminiscent of most high-profile families in the metro cities.
The climax, however, is one of the best that I have come across so far in detective novels. It is totally unexpected, and then just as I read who the murderer was, I realized the clues were there throughout the story. Now that’s the work of an intelligent writer.
Moreover, in the end, Amar chooses moral justice over the word of law. This is something I find lacking is a lot of thrillers, and want someone to explore. Maybe Amar could become a detective who believes more in morality rather than sticking to what’s legal and what’s not.
Introduction of Amar Sagar
The protagonist, Amar, is an engineer-turned-detective, who just begins to make the headlines. He is a simple, smart, and intelligent guy, with an understated demeanour. While I smelled some inspiration from Sherlock Holmes, he seemed to be more like the advanced version of Byomkesh Bakshi. What this means is that instead of deep analytical research and studies, the detective here relies more on instinct and deductions.
While this is Chandrashekar’s debut novel, I am pretty sure that he will continue the legacy of Amar, and his next book will feature him again. In fact, there is a huge scope to build the character further. What’s his backstory? Why did he choose to become a detective? How did he meet SP James? I really want to find the answers to these and many other questions.
Moreover, in the end, Amar chooses moral justice over the word of law. This is something I find lacking in a lot of thrillers, and want someone to explore. Maybe Amar could become a detective who believes more in morality rather than sticking to what’s legal and what’s not.
While I have no major criticisms for the novel, Case No. 56 certainly lacks in terms of characterization. Yes, there are enough characters, but they lack weight. Except for Amar Sagar and Anitha Shinde, none of the characters have an arc big enough to make them interesting. I really wish I had more to read about Nikhil or even Nanditha, whom I felt were wasted. Even the victim Kishore didn’t have enough background.
However, the most under-utilized character was that of Ishanth Shinde. I seriously think that he could’ve done with some more meat, some more space. This exposes the lack of detail in the novel, which left me wanting for more.
Language & Readability
The language of Case No. 56 is quite simple and digestible, even for beginners. The use of words and sentences even for describing complex situations is very easy and doesn’t hamper your experience even for a moment. However, I personally found it too simple, especially after reading heavy literature like The White Tiger and 1984. It is so simple, that experienced readers would want it to be a bit more layered. Also, the book I just under 180 pages in length, which makes it a quick read. I read it in a couple of days, and I think most readers will complete it in 3-4 days. In short, it’s simple, easy, and digestible. Much like a popcorn thriller movie!
Noman Shaikh is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Bombay Reads. He grew up in Mumbai, a city he loves more than any other, and currently works as a content consultant. His expertise lies in creating high-quality academic and marketing content in the form of blogs, articles, op-eds, etc. Noman has worked with reputed brands, including Economic Times (through Spiral Media), Coinbase (through MattsenKumar), AdEngage, Della Group, GBIM Technologies, VAP Group, etc. For his published portfolio, click here. Contact Noman on noman@bombayreads for engagement.