Set in Manipur and Delhi, More Bodies Will Fall revolves around the mystery behind Amenla’s death – a Naga girl murdered in Delhi. Arjun Arora, the army man turned private detective whom the reader had already met in Dead Meat and Remember Death, takes up Amenla’s case after the Delhi police fails to do justice to her case. The narrative begins with a reference to the historic Naga-Kuki conflict and a small Kuki boy’s longing for a pretty Naga girl. There is a sudden shift in the setting in the second chapter, from Manipur to South Delhi where the reader is introduced to Amenla – a pretty girl from the Northeast working in a call centre in Delhi. And here comes the unexpected! Someone strangles Amenla to death in her rented house in South Delhi.
Now, the reader meets Arjun Arora who is on his way to Gurgaon for a football match on a Sunday morning, when he gets a call from Colonel Trideep Roy. Colonel Roy requests him to take a particular case that seems to be very urgent and has a Northeast connection, and the case is none other than Amenla’s. Requested by the colonel, Arjun meets Bendantoshi Longkumar – an old man from Nagaland who visits Arora’s flat at Chittaranjan Park. The old man seems desperate to have her daughter Amenla get justice. Mr. Longkumar informs Arora that the main suspect of Amenla’s murder is her ‘Indian boyfriend ‘whom the Delhi Police arrested and released soon, due to the lack of sufficient evidence.
Although Arjun’s intention was to avoid such murder cases in Delhi, he, however, decides to take up this particular case only because the father in him could recognize the distress of Mr. Longkumar. Arjun starts his mission with a bundle of clippings and photographs provided by Amenla’s father. The entire process compels him to visit different parts of the Northeast – Shillong, Nagaland, Manipur, Guwahati, and also to the Indo-Myanmar border along with interacting numerous possible suspects in Delhi.
While depicting the existing crimes in major cities and urban areas like Delhi, Mumbai (in Remember Death), Saikia’s novels also contain a strong sense of place.The description of places in this novel is also very detailed. Places like Shillong, Delhi, Manipur and Nagaland are described in such a way that anybody who has been to all these places can easily connect to them. It definitely also stands for the writer’s profound knowledge of these places.
More Bodies Will Fall has a compelling and credible plot with characters drawn from different social strata. Throughout the entire novel, Saikia has been successful in engaging reader’s attention with different sub-plots and curiosity inducing techniques. The novel has a well thought out plot. Every story would lead to another story, heightening readers’ curiosity, and it’s not easy at all to predict the actual suspect.
Centering on Amenla’s death, the novel unveils the presence of gruesome killings of innocent people in the urban landscape. And, surprisingly, nobody can imagine what lies beneath the shiny surface of modern life. Metropolis like Delhi, Mumbai, and Shillong become the key setting of all crime fictions by Saikia – be it Dead Meat, Remember Death or More Bodies Will Fall. If we look at the characterization, Arjun Arora is a brilliant creation by Ankush Saikia. It’s a credible representation of a detective with his roots lying in Northeast. His reactions to various situations and interactions to other characters in the novel, his smart personality – Arjun’s character does justice to the narrative.
The dark social realities pertaining to the North and Northeast India – communal conflict, gruesome killings of people, corruption, politics, and the illegal drug trade are uncovered in More Bodies Will Fall. The novel also touches upon the stereotypical belief systems, the commonly perceived notions about girls from Northeast. When Arjun enquires about Amenla, ‘Was she a stylish girl?’, Mrs Sodhi says ‘Yes, she was. Most of them are, girls from the North East’.
The narrative makes a steady progress towards the final moment when an unidentified person shoots Arjun that puts him into a coma. There is a logical flow of events combined with simple prose and clarity of expression. However, the narrative could have been tightened a little by shortening few details about Arjun’s course of action throughout the novel. All things considered – the plot and its engaging presentation, characterization and setting, More Bodies Will Fall is undeniably an interesting, and absolutely a must read for thecrime/detective fiction lovers.
Crime fiction being in its primary stage in India, there is a handful of writers like Anita Nair, Jerry Pinto, Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay, Ashwin Sanghi and Piyush Jhawho who have been contributing to establish this genre in India. And we can add Ankush Saikia to this list who has, so far, produced a number of attention-grabbing crime novels like Red River, Blue Hills, More Bodies Will Fall, Dead Meat, Remember Death, andThe Girl from the Nongrim Hills. Also, Saikia seems to be the only author from the Northeastern region with a concrete contribution to the world of Indian Crime Fiction in English, and also enriching the literature of the region.
By Dr Saurabhi Sarmah
This review was first published in Eclectic Northeast May 2018 issue