The Tenth Riddle… A crime thriller with riveting plot

Thursday, 02 December 2021 | PNS | Dehradun

A mystery thriller that keeps the readers gripped to the book till the very end, Sapan Saxena’s The Tenth Riddle is an interesting concoction of history, mythology, ancient secrets and, a tinge of feminism. Published by Locksley Hall Publishing and pitched by The Book Bakers, it catches your attention right from the first page and keeps you hooked and intrigued till the ultimate secret is revealed.

The story is set in the Goner of Rajasthan where an erstwhile Princess was murdered six years back in the premises of the temple of Kuldevi, the most revered Goddess in the region. The main suspect, the victim’s childhood friend is also missing for six years with no traces of whether dead or alive. There are other potential suspects but none that tie the murder to any of them. How the protagonists, while solving the case discover a much sinister and powerful secret to the temple forms the basis of the story.

Sapan has given a fascinating touch of Hindu mythology by exploring a rather majorly unfamiliar territory of Mahavidyas, the ten forms of Adishakti that are deep-rooted in knowledge and wisdom. There is a riddle tied to each of the ten Mahavidyas, which they need to solve. The knowledge that the book imparts about the Mahavidyas, Shiv Shakti, and the outstanding concept of Ardhanarishvara just blows your mind! There is a good deal of the history of Kushan, and Gupta kings covered throughout the book. Each chapter is named after one of the many names of the Hindu goddess, Parvati, which was a rather unique way of naming the chapters.

There is a sense of social justice always prevalent throughout the book as it attacks one of the evilest practices of Indian society, that of female foeticide. The irony that Kuldevi is supposed to bless the devotees with male children is not lost on the reader and has been explained rather neatly.

The story moves at a brisk pace with Sapan keeping you on the hook at the end of every chapter, and while your focus is on the riddles, mythology, and history, Sapan introduces one of the most unexpected and smart twists to ever come across recently in Indian fiction.

In an endeavor to explain the representational aspects of Mahavidyas at times, Sapan goes too much into detail. Also, a couple of riddles out of the ten that form the core of the book get solved rather too easily.

Despite an air of mystery always surrounding each scene that plays out, Sapan has kept his protagonists Shoumik, Ishan and, Shakti (aptly named) very rooted and highly realistic and that makes the book very relevant. There are no high-octane car chases or long drawn fight sequences, but still, the book has a sense of urgency and thrill that makes the reader complete the book in one go. The cover is marked with an engrossing figure of Adishakti with silhouettes of the three protagonists.

Overall, it’s highly recommended to anyone who loves a great thriller, while providing an extra something in the form of its history and mythology references. Pick it up for the story and the information capsules and end up getting absorbed in the suspense that Sapan has developed very tastefully.

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