Fear in the Forests

Review of Prey By The Ganges; Hemant Kumar; Wisdom Tree 2011; pp 387; Rs 295
– Shana Susan Ninan

Fear lurks in the forests. But more so in people’s minds. And that’s what Thakur Gajanan Singh has tapped into, to make his presence felt in his village. Fear makes his subjects and servants bow down to any level to just survive. Caught in his menacing clasp are more than just the villagers – anyone passing through, traders and visitors included. His character is deep-rooted evil, with violence a name for all that he does. I agree he’s attractively masculine, and Hemant’s prose does immense to give us that feel, too. Gajanan comes into the picture many pages into the novel, but once he’s in, his presence takes over your reading of the novel itself, if not the pages that mention him.

Hemant Kumar’s debut novel, Prey By The Ganges is disturbingly nice. Apart from being an oxymoron, those two words describe exactly what I felt. The plot is exceedingly well crafted, pulling you page after page. The plot is also disturbing – but then you also know that such things are possible. The treachery, murder and helplessness of the victims come across as real to you. And it is.

The story starts with Shambu’s friend, Ravi going across the Ganges to purchase a diamond from the evil Thakur’s brother. Things take a turn and the plan goes to a waste as he’s discovered. Shambu, a bone-healer and best friend of Ravi’s, follows him to find out what has become of him. What Shambu finds scares him but does nothing to deter him from his mission. A healer, we wonder if Shambu is capable of maiming the man who took his friend. But we see that he uses his intellect to get into the very place where he’s safe and can carry out his work – the Thakur’s mansion. The sprawling rooms, a puja on the premises and help from inside help him establish his location. A lot goes on in between to show how he manages to escape the evil man’s and his goons’ clutches, time and again.

The cover of the book reflects on the story. Although I wish the girl’s profile on the right bottom of the page wasn’t there – takes away the seriousness of the theme. Especially because the villain’s face is so well done.

The author has skillfully woven each character into the story, given prominence to the flow of the narrative and presented near real-life situations with aplomb. Hemant’s use of adjectives stands out – he hasn’t repeated any adjective. Now that says something about a writer. Each adjective used is well-chosen and used aptly.

His prose is superb and invoking:
Shambu felt fear creep up his spine like a slithering serpent… He was aware that a single brass-jacketed bullet from that bullet could tear through his chest, gore his heart, puncture a lung, and leave a fist-sized exit wound in his back, before drilling deep into the tree trunk.

Slapping back the bolt and locking it down, he bent forward and slid the curved base of the rifle’s lightweight butt slowly, deliberately, expertly into the matching curvature of his muscular shoulder. Weathered joints of the easy chair groaned under the weight of the moment…. Feeling every grain of power, packed inside the weapon, he levelled the sight between the maid’s shoulder blades, and paused – like a panther, moments before lunging at its cornered prey.

With such promising ability to create a well-structured story, Hemant sure can start writing his next novel. Looking forward to that!

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Rating: 7.0/10 (7 votes cast)
Fear in the Forests, 7.0 out of 10 based on 7 ratings

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This entry was posted on Friday, December 16th, 2011 at 5:33 pm and is filed under Fiction, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.


  1. December 17th, 2011 | Canlove says:

    Fear in the Forests will be a great book.

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