80 hours to save Karen is the tale of a retired air commodore who desperately tries to save his granddaughter after she is rendered comatose. The author has done a great job in setting the entire tale against a supernatural background providing the right amount of spooky details as the protagonist struggles to make sense of a drugged apple look-alike rubber ball and a murdered village physician who attended his comatose granddaughter with a sympathetic cop in the background.
What works well for the novel?
The protagonist’s character sketch and his background is skillfully fleshed out and the reader’s attention to drawn to the protagonist’s prejudices and familial attachments as the back story of family tragedies, his grand daughter’s multi religious background and his forceful personality is described at the beginning of the novel.
The strange rubber ball that looked like an apple, the child who bit it, the blood that cannot be washed off the child’s lips and yet, can be easily scrubbed clean of the hands of those who handle the ball, the strange specter of an insane village fiddler who sets the commodore on the right detective path and the horrifying details of the previous occupant of the house who dabbled in what looked like occult hooks the reader and I couldn’t resist continuing the reading until the mystery was explained.
What could have been better? (Spoiler alert)
Strange as this may sound, I felt the villain of the plot could have been made more villainous towards the end keeping in line with the aura of supernatural that Jai had managed to weave into the story. I also felt a few details were lacking around the “scientific” experiments of the villain especially when compared against Jai’s description of the protagonist and the deliberate playing up of the supernatural aura.
Verdict: Definite yay! for adding it to the list of great reads.
I did a shotgun interview with the author on a few questions I had about the book and the plot setting. Please see below for juicy titbits on the book and the link for the free ebook download.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for the book?
A: I have often been told by a number of friends and even some family members that I do not have any imagination or creativity at all. So the one thing that I have always wanted to do was to really figure out for myself if this is indeed the case. I heard of the A to Z blogging festival in January. I was racking my brains for ideas on what to write. Then I remembered a book I had read a long time back by Agatha Christie titled ‘Hickory Dickory Dock’ and another one with the title ‘Ten Little Niggers.’
Both of them are based on nursery rhymes. It occurred to me that I could use this A to Z idea to post a thriller fiction stretching across 26 chapters based on the English alphabets. It would also be a real test for my imagination or the lack of it. The first post was titled ‘A is for Apple So Rosy and Red’, the second one had the title ‘B is for a Ball Red With Blood’ and so on up to Z. And that is how the series of posts were born. The book in fact is nothing but a compilation of the 26 posts with a few minor changes thrown in. Of course the chapters in the book do not have any titles.
Q: How was the experience of writing the book in such a short span of time?
A: I wrote almost all the 26 posts in office much to the chagrin of my superiors. I have often heard from some of the best thriller fiction writers that for writing a thriller you have to be ready with the plot and everything has to be laid out neatly in your mind before you begin. When I tried to think of something to fill the first post ‘A is for Apple So Rosy And Red’ I came up a big blank. I felt like Big Moose in an Archie comic trying to solve an Algebra problem. I almost gave up the idea of writing thriller fiction. Then I suddenly decided to just sit and try writing and give thinking out plots and laying it out neatly in the mind a miss. To my surprise that worked.
I suddenly realised each writer has to find his own way. Stephen King and Agatha Christie are brilliant writers. I don’t claim to be in their class but what works for them does not work for me. And that is how I came up with the first post. And the rest flowed without any problems. Regarding the end, in most thrillers, the detective gives a complete explanation of the mystery to everyone including the police. At least that is what happens in Agatha Christie novels. I wanted to be different and in my book, which is why the villain explains everything.
Q: How did you come up with the characters in the book?
A: The protagonist is modeled on a school friend’s grandfather. This friend of mine had lost his father who was a Major in the army at an early age. His mother was the bread winner and his grandfather who used to entertain us kids during the holidays was a wonderful man. He had a long white beard and was great company. My protagonist does not have a beard though. The fiddler’s mad ravings are based on a mentally ill man who stands at the bus stop near my house in Kochi and raves about all kinds of mythical tales. I don’t see him nowadays. I hope he is okay. The other characters like inspector Vikram and Shivani are not based on anyone.
Q: How did you come up with the plot?
A: In all honesty I just went on writing. As I said I don’t have the capacity to think beforehand and come up with a plot. And after the fourth post I paused to think about where I was headed (All the posts were written in March so that I would have to do nothing but post it in my blog in April during A to Z) and again I came up with a blank. And I almost decided to give up the idea and choose a theme when I decided to try writing instead of thinking again. This worked again. It is perhaps this inability to come up with ideas voluntarily that gives people the idea that I don’t have any imagination at all.