Love Kills by Ismita Tandon

Summary: (from AmazonYou won’t live a boring life if you’re named after a whisky (more or less). Meet Johnny Will, named thus by an alcoholic father who died under mysterious circumstances. Johnny is the founder of Thy Will – a de-addiction centre for the rich and the famous that uses very questionable methods – and the fiancé of Mira Kermani, daughter of the richest man in town.
The beautiful, young Mira dies of an overdose of morphine. Officer Ray is convinced that Johnny is the killer. Johnny’s assistant Sera, who secretly loves him, and his half-brother Zac are working hard to protect him from the officer. Or are they? Could Aunt Adele’s hunger for what was rightfully her son’s inheritance have driven her to murder? Or is the murderer an unhappy patient?  From the author of the disturbing and controversial Jacob Hills, an unputdownable story of crime and passion in the hill-station town of Monele.
My thoughts: I read this book in one sitting, and how could I have not, when it is so engaging? The author has not fallen into the usual whodunit trap, where the convoluted characters and contrived storylines strive to keep us utterly confused, but in the process fail to sound real. Love Kills has a realistic plot, and because it is so believable, and the characters so gray, the story affects us like few others. From Johnny Wills and his malicious aunt Adele to the totally smitten Sera and Officer Ray who is irrationally convinced of Johnny’s guilt – each person has his own faults – we find ourselves siding with no one and realize soon enough how everyone, no matter how well we know them, has secrets that are better off hidden. While it’s difficult to guess who the killer is, and the author expertly keeps us on our toes, scanning for clues; it’s even more difficult to figure out who the good guy is or if there is one.
Johnny’s de-addiction center is reminiscent of the harrowing Stephen King short story, Quitters, Inc. Love Kills by Ismita Tandon drives home the idea that sometimes we don’t know what’s best for ourselves, sometimes we need to be slapped across the face to be brought to our senses. Inversely, though, however convinced we may be that we’re helping someone, it’s often best to stay put, and let people run their own lives. Guilt, resentment, obsession, misplaced concern; the story makes us question the simple feelings that could easily multiply into unrepentant cruelty. Admittedly, parts of the story are a little over-dramatized but that’s to be expected, from a scandalous theme.
The authors uses her setting well, and the hill-station town of Monele is inextricably woven into the characters’ life stories. Even in a couple of hundred pages, the book manages to have a large scope. In a sense, the novel is generation-spanning, and shows us how deeply family and the social-cage influence a child, and how our passions and failings affect not only those around us, but go on to seal the fate of the generations yet to come. 
The book reads like one written by a seasoned writer. Those who’ve read Ismita Tandon’s previous books are surely familiar with her atypical style and Love Kills is that style at its best. The writing is pithy, and funny and strewn throughout the book are the most wonderful poems. Which brings me to the author’s amazingly frequent, tongue-in-cheek references to herself, in the garb of Officer Ray’s poetic persona a.k.a ‘A Lesser Known Poet.’ 
The myriad points of view, each chapter a first person narration by one of the characters, do initially seem jarring. As do the tenses: the story is narrated in the present tense, but there are moments when the flitting timelines prove somewhat hard to follow. But what the many viewpoints provide, is a chance to see each individual closely. Besides, the viewpoints bring us the chapter-title illustrations, and you know what, why settle for a description when we could have an actual picture? —>
Here are some of my favourite quotes from the story:
The whole world wants to raise a family, no matter where their own life is headed. Buy a fancy cradle, tiny clothes, expensive toys, paint the nursery and potty train, it’s all fine, but what are they going to teach the kid when their own head is so full of fears and lies? How easy it is to make a baby and then screw up with its head! Passing on the confusion and chaos to the child, till the new seed is infected by the old.
“It can’t be! She would have told me. We were very close,” he said with the crumbling confidence of a man who had reared a child with love and affection only to lose her to an unforeseen enemy, adulthood.
That is how the world lives, in charades of loving families, no one acknowledging that all is not well and never will be. A beautiful patchwork of lies is what we create to fit in.
‘Why wash our dirty linen in public?’ She spoke with utmost dignity, the ravages of time and  alcohol had not dimmed her sense of society and social stigma.
I wondered then whether she too was to blame – this silently suffering wife who has witnessed it all, fearing for her husband’s reputation.
Let these snippets convince you not to dismiss Love Kills by Ismita Tandon as just another mystery. Grab your copy on Amazon!

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