Book – Jacob Hills
Author – Ismita Tandon Dhankher
Publication – HarperCollins India
Pages – 263
Price -Rs. 299
Genre – Fiction/Suspense
“But he will not kill me. He’s a coward and a coward always stabs in the back.”
Jacob Hills – the second book by the author is set in the premises of an army station housing a war college in the year 1985. Maj.George Chandy and his wife Eva Chandy reaches this station for George to take up a teaching assignment after missing out on the selection due to an accident. Eva joins the in-house school for teaching toddlers. We are introduced to his colorful friends -the husband wife duo of Lt. Col Gary Randhawa and his wife Pam. At the surface, they come across just as any other army couple but the consistent promotions that Gary seems to be making a habit of is credited to Eva and a secret couples club that the duo are suspected to be heading. Captain Vikram Singh is highly ambitious and believes that the only way to reach the top is to keep the bosses happy. To expedite the process, he is even ready to offer his simpleton ‘ugly’ wife Saryu for one night stands. There’s Major Alex, a character fighting his inner demons. Captain Rana is a student at the war college and in the process of flirting with a pretty local girl gets her impregnated. Not to be left behind in misery, the girl Heena hunts him down and approaches the authorities to get them married. Rana’s attitude towards Heena is understandably that of apathy. The station is kept in order by Brigadier Sargam and his wife who’s known for throwing her weight around. Chief Instructor Col. Tehlan is another manipulative yet crucial character in the novel along with his wife and three kids – Sunny,Bunny and Mini. A parallel story keeps running in the place with a character whose identity is not revealed getting abused by her army husband. When the body of this woman is discovered by Eva and Alex in fatal conditions, the sanctity of the army base is violated. Next what follows is the sudden discovery of a child abuse victim in Eva’s own class. Eva,not one to give up, decides to go all out in discovering the murderer and predator. The findings point towards someone revealing whose identity might jeopardize George’s career while the murderer hovers around in close circles keeping a close watch on Eva’s every move. How Eva fights it all out, whether George continues his support for Eva’s decisions at the cost of risking his job and reputation and whether Eva emerges a winner or gives in to the preset rules of being a dutiful army wife is unraveled gradually in the course of the narrative.
Jacob Hills belongs to the genre of suspense and the author does a fabulous job of keeping the readers hooked on till the end. The climax left me shaken – it was such a shocker. The book is written in simple language yet the continuity flows on without any major hurdles. It is difficult not to finish the reading at one go. I stayed up till wee hours of the morning to know what exactly happens in the end. The plot is that gripping. The characters are well etched out. George and Eva being the protagonists – the author has detailed out their nature, characteristics and dilemma quite elaborately. Yet each of the characters hold ground without being overshadowed by the protagonists. What is indeed beautiful is the fact that everyone has a separate story running. How they get entangled in each others’ lives culminating in the climax of the novel is what makes the narration interesting. The background is picturesque. Kudos to the author for invoking the feeling of involvement as I read on. The issues of domestic violence and child abuse is handled very delicately and with compassion.
If you are a fan of suspense/mystery genre in fiction, Jacob Hills is a must read in Indian writing. I have read the author’s other works and consider this to be her best story so far. As the story begins unfolding, the suspense keeps building keeping the reader guessing till the end.
My rating would be
4.5 out of 5
About the author –
Ismita Tandon Dhankher is a Pune based writer and poet. Her poem ‘I am Beautiful’ has won the Yahoo-Dove Indibloggers contest. Her first novel – Love on the Rocks, a romantic thriller was first published in 2011. First published in 2013, Jacob Hills is the second novel of Ismita Tandon Dharkher. Ismita studied sociology, history and economics at Sophia College, Ajmer. She also has an MBA degree to her credit. After a brief tenure at Thomas Cook, Mumbai she finally took to prose and poetry with a vengeance. (source – https://ismitatandon.weebly.com/)