Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Humour with a Heart


Mysterious screaming heard in the decrepit stairway of a suburban housing complex, evidence of domestic abuse, a suicide case that may just turn out to be cold-blooded murder, thefts involving wedding gifts as well as hefty chunks of cash, and a mounting body count. It is hard to imagine this material being milked for laughs and yet, that is exactly what Kiran Manral, author of The Kitty Party Murder deftly manages to do with oodles of warmth and wit to spare. Her last book was the haunting Missing: Presumed Dead which was a disturbing study of the bottomless despair that those afflicted with mental illnesses suffer from which in turn traps victims and their loved ones in an endless spiral of self – destruction and grief. Manral’s latest offering on the other hand is replete with delightful humour guaranteed to leave you laughing up a storm.

            Why are humourists critically and criminally underrated? The world itself does not offer much by way of good cheer which is the all the more reason we need books, movies and just about anything else that makes us laugh ourselves silly and feel gloriously alive. The Kitty Party Murder is just the thing to make the pandemic – induced blues go away, forcibly driven back by gales of raucous laughter that is totally worth making your family members and dogs wonder if you are utterly and irredeemably nuts.

            Kanan Mehra aka Kay, who formerly graced the pages of Manral’s The Reluctant Detective, is a thirty – something housewife who wouldn’t mind some excitement in her life just as long as it does not disrupt her routine which features lunching with the ladies, shopping, deferring working out, mediating disputes between her domestic help and dealing with her adorable son whom she refers to as the brat and the workaholic spouse. Like the very best of comic fiction, Kay’s world is funny, filled with snark, biting observations about human nature, occasionally dark and entirely enthralling.

            Nearly every sentence is packed with jokes and ideas that demand you savour each line for a truly rewarding read. And while the humour itself is wicked it is also humane. Kay, might be given to abusing hyperbole and an extremely critical narrator but she doesn’t let anyone off the hook, least of all, herself. She goes on at length about her cellulite, recalcitrant paunch, Nutella habit and lackadaisical approach to life even when she is ordered to investigate a supposed suicide case by infiltrating a kitty party group and unearthing their deepest, darkest secrets. One can’t help but admire Kay’s je ne sais quoi and enjoy the joyful romp across her quirky world with its abundance of mirth, keen observation and biting satire. 

This review was originally published in The New Indian Express.

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