Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Gilbert Jessop Mystery - A Review

by Aisoorya Vijayakumar

If you’d been thinking that mystery writings, sport writings, and art writings, are all a world apart from each other, then here’s how you change your mind –- Read ArunabhaSengupta’s The Gilbert Jessop mystery novella, serialized by the Cricket Country here.

To begin with, the novella ‘bowls’ you over, pun intended, with all the fastidiously collected data points on art and cricket that have been so beautifully woven into the threads of the underlying mystery.

The plot revolves around Professor Anand, a middle-aged, but nevertheless sharp-on-wits-and-skills academician and part-time cricketer, and a self-confessed cricket historian. Kumar Mangalsingh, who sponsors the cricket club that Anand plays for, summons Anand out of the blue to a sudden meeting in Calcutta that forces Anand to traverse the country. What awaits Anand at Calcutta is a bizarre but exciting prospect of finding an invaluable art-cricket hybrid artifact, aided by  a strapping British art history researcher Sylvie Pemberton who specializes in Mathematical influences on art.

But the prospect, though alluring, needs painstaking analysis and needs Anand to bring out his sleuth powers. How does an art history research student fit into this maze? Do Anand and Kumar succeed in getting their hands on the priceless artifact? These form the rest of the story, and the reader is in for no disappointments, whatsoever.

The Gilbert Jessops mystery novella is gripping, and can easily be rated one of the most captivating multi-genre novellas. Sengupta’s characters are ever so endearing with their ingenious and witty lines. Some lines which linger on in the mind are:

Sylvie Pemberton(about Paul Hackensmith): He wrote and painted for pleasure.
Professor Anand: Perhaps the best way to do it.

Professor Anand (to Sylvie Pemberton): I’ve seldom had such singular attention from someone so attractive.

Sylvie Pemberton (to Professor Anand): I heard you play cricket too.
Professor Anand: I do, but I am much better at its history. And no history of cricket will ever talk of me.

Professor Anand (lamenting): In 1996, while we had stepped on the jet age with one foot, the other was still stuck in the bullock cart.

The author’s language prowess comes to fore in the lovely narration, where he transports us into the bygone English era, when he gives us a peek into one yesteryear artist’s letter trove. The meticulous details which Sengupta uses to differentiate that language from contemporary English are laudable. Although the reader feels a bit lost towards the end of the 1998 episode, when the suspense unravels in the next one, five and a half years later, is worth waiting for.

Sengupta’s wry humor, the thought-provoking tale twists, and the overall irony of the entire tale, all make this novella a must read.

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