A gripping human drama of suspense, treachery and intrigue from the author of Night of the Krait and The Hangman’s Journal
Bala Kamath is a burnt-out alcoholic investigative journalist on the verge of losing his job with the media house for which he works. As a last chance to save his career, he is sent on an assignment to a small town near Mangalore, to investigate a godman, one Swami Sarvananda, who, it is alleged, had stolen money, sheltered criminals and tried to rape a devotee.
He visits the godman’s ashram the next day and finds a bond building between the Swami and himself. By the time the Swami is arrested on charge of attempted rape, Bala is sure that there’s more to the case than meets the eye, a feeling confirmed by the emergence of a dubious politician and his strongman, the murder of the Swami’s second-in-command, and by a series of jailhouse chats with the Swami. When the Swami refuses to meet him any more, Bala returns to Bangalore to face his own failing marriage, resurrect his relationship with his teenaged daughter and retrieve his career. Meanwhile, the Swami is released on bail and disappears.
In tracing the Swami’s story and discovering the murderer, Bala discovers more about himself than he had bargained for…
For over thirty years, Janardhanan Pillai was the aratchar, the hangman, on call for the prison authorities in the kingdom of Travancore and, after Independence, the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. After the courts had passed a death sentence, it was left to him to put the condemned man to death, swiftly and clinically. Each time he returned from the gallows, he told himself that it would be the last time. But he went back, a hundred and seventeen times.
Based on Pillai’s life, The Hangman’s Journal takes us into the mind of a man struggling to come to terms with his dharma, his conscience, and his shame. A meditation on life and death and what it means to end a life, this haunting novel is one of the finest works of contemporary Indian fiction.