Five men are on their way to a hill station, where Ramola, a fading movie star, waits to make an announcement that will change their lives forever — reads the jacket of A Closetful of Skeletons. Uhuh. Is it something like Sunset Boulevard (film), we thought.
The similarities are there — the protagonist is a fading star, and the book serves some delicious gossip, the insecurities and cut-throat competition that prevails in the film world. But Ramola, unlike Norma (the ageing star in Sunset Boulevard) doesn’t live under any illusion that she is going to make a grand come-back. She is happy with the world she has created in Ramsar, a hill-station in up north, pursuing other interests, living a secluded, but not a lonely life.
But her past does have a presence in her present. Ramola has written her autobiography — ‘exposé’ being the right term. And, she has invited five men, from her past, to celebrate her new project. However, the men get jittery when they hear about the book. They have got everything to lose if their exploits become public knowledge. No wonder then that two days after the announcement of the book, Ramola is found murdered.
This opens up the trail of whos, whys and hows with ASP Tim Thapa and Colonel Acharya trying to outwit the killer/s. In the process, they figure out the enigmatic persona of Ramola, who is described variously by her detractors as ‘hard as nails’, ‘cold’, ‘calculating’ and ‘selfish’.
For a thriller mystery to click with the readers, it has to be fast-paced and a page turner. A Closetful... is a page-turner, but the pace lags a bit when the author tries to set up a scene too lavishly. And, yet when the climax comes, the reader is in for a surprise. All our guesswork results in a naught. The credit is due to the author, whose first attempt at writing a thriller, gets a thumbs up.