Goodreads link: ‘It is already three weeks since she is being murdered and No! One! Is! Yet! Having! The! Money!’ screeches Mrs Kumar.
Intrepid private eye Ramji is hired by Mrs Kumar to locate the will of her aunt-in-law, a wealthy widow who has just been found brutally murdered in her south Delhi villa. And so the amateur detective sets forth on his rickety two-wheeler, in the middle of a sizzling Delhi summer, to solve his very first case, a mystery that only deepens as time goes by.
In the process, he encounters a diverse and entertaining sample of the capital’s inhabitants – from a staid bank clerk who is inexplicably satisfied with his dull routine to the menopausal Mona with her powder-encrusted armpits; from the phlegmatic Bihari servant on the road to personal evolution to the hot-tempered business honcho Mahinder Khanna. Alongside, Ramji philosophizes on life and bonds with the jaded Delhi policeman, Riaz Khan. As the body count goes up, Ramji must draw on his innate ingenuity and also devise new skills to keep himself from adding to it.
Laced with humor and intrigue, Just the Facts, Madamji is a captivating Indian remake of the conventional murder mystery and introduces a protagonist who is both authentic and edgy.
With Just the Facts, Madamji, the author Sharmila Kantha takes us into the whimsically funny world of Ramji, the quintessential South Indian ‘Madrasi’ stuck in a clerical level bank job in Delhi. While the boredom and the drudgery of his day job doesn’t kill him, the monotony and lack of variety in his middle class life surely has Ramji in the doldrums. And when he decides that he is qualified enough to be a Private Investigator; courtesy his voracious reading of crime fiction thrillers and places an ad in the Yellow Pages no less, to his surprise he is hired to investigate the missing will of a murdered wealthy widow.
Ramji, in his naiveté, decides that something as trivial as a missing will doesn’t quite appeal to him as much as solving the murder mystery itself, and he therefore ‘unofficially’ begins investigating the murder which by a funny quirk of fate becomes his ‘officially declared’ case as well. And almost during the initial phase of his investigation, he stumbles upon another dead body, that of the maid of the first victim. The affair then takes a serious turn and slowly Ramji gets himself embroiled deeper and deeper in the quagmire.
Does he manage to solve the mystery of the murders, and more importantly does he find the missing will (the only way he would get paid for his services) forms the crux of the rest of the narrative. Suffice to say that this book is hilarious to say the least and is a quick breezy read as well without taxing readers’ brains too much.
In Ramji, readers will surely find a protagonist who will endear himself to them very easily. His constant wit, middle class reflections of life in Delhi, the drudgery of his job, the forced excitement of his detective job, all of these left lasting impressions on me. A few character traits which I found particularly endearing were the four line song snippets that he keeps singing to himself when he is riding his rickety old scooter through Delhi as part of his investigations and the various little sayings – Ramji’s Guiding Principles of Life; the principles especially resonating so well with my own ones.
What’s even more endearing about this book is the fact that it ends with Ramji forming an uneasy but working alliance with Riaz Khan from the police department and this leaves me licking my lips in anticipation for upcoming adventures of this duo.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publishers in return for a fair and unbiased review of the same.