Book vanthu pathu varusham aaguthu. Ithaan un takka nu kelvilaam kekkapdaathu. Had a chance to read it only yesterday.
I learnt most of my English diction by reading Jeffrey Archer and Sidney Sheldon with little bit of vocab from Hindu editorial. While Sheldon's novels were usually the same template of having a lady protagonist, who, even while being a Brunette will start off as a dumb blonde, trusting everyone at drop of the hat, only to be screwed royally by the very same on whom she will wreak vengeance with help from unexpected quarters. Of course, there would be a mandatory jail sequence, where either she would be beaten or violated or both and would escape from prison in laundry box or some truck that take things in and out. Almost all of the novels would've some explicit "matter" scenes and in some editions the cover of those books would put Mills and Boon to shame. Even with such a masala framework, with almost predictable storyline, every single character created by Sheldon stands out even after so many years. Be it the Suave, charming villain Constantin Demiris of Memories and Memoirs of Midnight (guess the only sequel he ever wrote) or the scores of lady protoganists - Lara, Jennifer Parker, Kate Blackwell, Megan, Tracy whitney and many more, its not just their names, but also their sufferings, their determination to avenge, the locations where the story is set, everything sets each other apart. Its like watching a Rajini movie, knowing very well how its going to end yet rooting for him.
Personally i felt, the last few of his novels were mere mismash of his previous ones and when he passed away there was a sadness associated with nostalgia of the first ever novel that i read in English, which was his "Master of the game", an amazing story nevertheless. There was an arugment sometime back with a friend of mine when he quoted the new book and credited Sheldon as the author. I was more than sure that it can't be Sheldon as he had passed away long back, yet when i saw in the label that it was indeed carrying his name, was kind of confused. Later realized that another author, inarguably an ardent devotee of Sheldon, had started writing novels in his name. Felt like a wonderful gesture of tribute to the master at the same time cashing in on his name for quick sales. An imitation can be the best form of flattery, but even for it hold its place, it should muster bare minimal scrutiny is my opinion. On to the book review.
If you remove the covers and read the book ,you could almost believe that it was written by the master himself. Such is the methodical approach with which Tilly Bagshawe have approached this story. The template is almost perfect. There is the grand opening of court scene with the lamb for slaughter heroine lead to receive the verdict. Even without the result, which appears after some 100 pages into the book, is released, its quite obvious that she would be declared guilty. Typical Sheldon touch. Jail scenes - Check. Breezy romance with the hero/anti-hero/villain - Check. Bitching relatives /friends/co-workers with many a who-dunnit possibilities of the murder - Check. Heroine being helped in jail by inmates -Check. The supposedly naive heroine, solving case like Sherlock - Check.
Still the story falls short of what would've been a thriller by Sheldon the original.
There are quotes from Star Wars and references to Yoda. That felt odd for any quotes in either Sheldon or Archer novels, usually used to make me google for them. They wouldnt be so straight forward is my opinion. The more the heroine feels for her husband it became pretty obvious that the twist would involve him as the villain. But the mega twist of him being alive only made the story sour as it didnt quite justified him as being so ruthless and reckless towards the heroine. The climax punch that is typically Sheldon was also missing as the ease with which the heroine goes about finding the missing link, considering that she was characterized as a dud all throughout doesnt quite gel with the narrative. Also the fact that she doesnt get to punish any of those who did her wrong only leaves an incomplete flavor.
Gils verdict - Thought the story line was almost 80% true to the thought process of the master teller. But there is a reason why he is the master despite flipping and flopping over the same story line. Its those niche plots and subtle tacks that which is missing, makes this novel fall at the last hurdle towards the pedestal of success. But a damn good attempt to recreate the magic of Sidney Sheldon.