Have you ever thought about what goes in the mind of a murder convict? What if he is the one who is the victim and not the perpetrator as it is portrayed to be? Kuttasammatham by Siby Thomas is a novel that delves into a crime and its aftermath and offers a deep character study of those involved.
The novelist being a police officer in real life has helped bring much-needed authenticity to the police proceedings narrated in the novel. Crime and Punishment form the central theme of this 200-page novel, and the author has succeeded in keeping the author engaged throughout the proceedings to a considerable extent. Though this one is unlike the many sensationalistic thriller novels hitting the Malayalam Pulp Fiction Market every week, it is an enjoyable read.
The story is told in the first person by Thomas, the Circle Investigator of Veleswaram. Babu, a quarry worker, is found dead in a lodge room, and the police quickly capture the murderer. But little did they know that he had a troubled past, and he might not be the person he thinks he is.
Kuttasammatham is not an edge-of-the-seat police procedural, nor does it intend to be one as the crime, victim, and the culprit are all revealed within the first fifty pages. The novel is mainly about the travails of the culprit, who seems to have done the crime as an act of self-defense. The author's practical experience appears to have come in handy as Court proceedings, and trial details are written authentically and realistically. The police officers in this novel are also quite relatable and not the filmy types with heavy-duty dialogues and Sethuramayyar style crime deduction skills. The author has also made them entirely down-to-earth and humane. With short chapters and pretty simple language, a non-discerning reader can quickly finish the book in one sitting.
On the downside, the book has some pacing issues. Some scenes (especially those in Gopi's ancestral home) feel dated and give the 90's Malayalam Cinema Vibe of the typical Palakkadan Nair tharavadu with the Valluvanadan slang! Similarly, though the intention behind the detailing regarding Thomas's personal life is laudable, most of the scenes don't add much to the narrative. It comes out quite odd that the Inspector's wife, Reshma, is so obsessed with the plight of Gopi. Also, some of the scenes (the investigators spending a night at the culprit's home and all) are unconvincing. If you pick up this book, thinking it to be a twisty thriller(taking into account its title and cover page)), I must say that you might be a bit disappointed. But that doesn't mean that this one is a tedious affair.
The novel's questions towards the end are pretty valid and relevant. After all, as they say, man is a victim of his circumstances.
On the whole, Kuttasammatham is an engaging read. It has its share of flaws, but it does raise a few pertinent statements about the idea of justice in our contemporary society.
Published by Mathrubhumi Books, this novel is priced at 260 Rupees.