Monday, December 23, 2013

Review: Jacob Hills by Ismita Tandon Dhankher

Some professions have a lot of layers hidden beneath the reality. It's like they carry a signboard "none of your business" for the outsiders. Life wherever you go is never easy. Author Ismita Tandon Dhankher in her second novel "Jacob Hills" takes readers for a ride which promises to turn a lot of heads. So has she done it in style? Let's find out. 

An unloved woman is a soft target, anyone can hit her, have her.
It’s just another evening at the Tiller’s Club.
Near the bar, Capt. Rana, the Young Officer undergoing training at the War College stands among his course mates, consciously avoiding his pregnant, Muslim wife, Heena. Rumour has it she had forced him to marry her because of the baby.
Saryu, village belle turned modern babe, drink in hand, chats up a YO. Her husband, Maj. Vikram Singh, shoots angry glances at her. She isn’t bothered; the question is, who will she go home with tonight?
Pam and Gary, the flamboyant Sikh couple, chat merrily with the senior officers, charming as ever. Who’d ever guess that they lead the infamous Key Club, an underground swinger couples’ club.
And in one corner stands the Anglo-Indian wife of Maj. George Chandy, Eva, who finds herself at the heart of a murder mystery when a woman’s bleeding body is discovered at the old church under the black cross. The murdered woman’s body is covered with cigarette burns. A six-year-old girl’s wrist is similarly marked. Another little girl shows signs of severe abuse.
Jacob Hills: an army station that houses the War College where young officers receive training. A world of army officers and genteel conversation, of smart men and graceful women. Set in the 1980s – in an India that was at the cusp of tradition and Westernized modernity – this is the story of the ugliness that lies beneath the garb of Jacob Hills’s beauty and sophistication. An ugliness the Chandys find themselves confronted with. Will they uncover the truth behind the woman’s murder? Will their love survive Jacob Hills?

First look at the title and the cover and readers might confuse it with a ghost story. But this title has a lot more suspense to it. The cover image of a desolated road leaves a pulsating thought in the mind of the readers. The blurb talks about a lot of people and how their lives are connected together. The blurb is very lengthy and could have been shortened up a bit. 

The story is of an army training academy called Jacob Hills where George Chandy arrives with his beautiful wife Eva Chandy. As soon as they settle down Eva gets to taste the whims and fancies of army women from the higher ranked officers. She tries to adjust to the circumstances but soon finds herself embroiled in a mess. Captain Rana a young officer is also at the receiving end of a mess. Col. Tehlan and his wife try to overpower and dominate the hills and their families along with Brigadier Sargam and his wife. But all of them have an other side to themselves which link them up and send the residents of Jacob Hills in a tizzy. So what will happen at the hills? How it looks from outside will it be the same from inside? What goes on behind those glitz and glamour? What is everyone hiding from one another? Will Eva & George be able to survive the ordeal? That's what the story is all about. 

It's indeed a suspense thriller. It takes you for a fun and frolic ride at first with sex and lust the center of attraction in the story but then with a lot of unsolved puzzles leaves the mind in tizzy for sometime. The bright spot of the story is it's confusing and pacy narration. It'll ease out and then again leave you gasping for breath with tantalizing revelations till the end. Both the halves of the story have been penned down with utmost care and the army backdrop serves well to the story line. It's bold and suspenseful. 

The downside of the book is that it becomes a bit predictable towards the end. The end could have been spread out a bit more in order to make it a perfect ending for the story.

Overall the aspect of reading a suspense thriller with an altogether different setup is a wonderful experience. There's sex, there's lust, there's jealousy, there's secret and not to forget the carefree ways of Army men which leads them to obnoxious outcome. It's a riveting tale and the catch lies in reading and mingling with the lives of Army men and their wives on Jacob Hills. 


4 OUT OF 5

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