Legendary Hindi mystery writer, Surendra Mohan Pathak’s books have, of late, started to be translated in English. One such novel is – The Last Goal which he had originally written in Hindi in 1990 under the title – Aakhiri Maqsad (the last goal).
Surendra Mohan Pathak writes novels under different series, viz. Sunil series (whose hero is an investigative journalist), Vimal series (whose hero is a dreaded, yet kind and clean-hearted criminal with a conscience) etc. One such series is Sudhir series whose hero, Sudhir Kohli is a Delhite of Punjabi origin. He is a private detective and runs his private detective agency under the name of Universal Investigations. Other stock characters of this series are Rajni, his receptionist-cum-secretary; Devendra Yadav, inspector, Delhi police who is connected with a special squad involved in investigating homicide cases only; Mukand Lal, a corrupt hawaldar in Delhi police who, for most of the time, remains suspended because of his taking bribes and who, for earning extra bucks, works for our hero on part time basis etc.
Pathak had created Sudhir in 1980 when he had had enough experience and earned name and fame in mystery-writing. He is, in the real sense, today’s hero who, despite having a conscience, is not at all an idealist and always interested in warming his pocket by this way or that way. Besides, he is always looking for willing females (of high society) to meet his sexual needs. Through him and his activities, Pathak describes the Delhite society, culture and people’s mindset in details (Pathak himself has been living in Delhi for the past six decades). Sudhir’s pet dialogue is – DELHI SHEHER MEIN DO HI CHEEZON KI KEEMAT HAI – ZAMEEN KI AUR KAMEEN KI (only two things bear a value in the city of Delhi – the land and the rascals).The Last Goal (originally, Aakhiri Maqsad) starts with the kidnapping of our hero himself by the men of a local gangster, Lekh Raj Madaan. Being troubled by the police, the income-tax department and financial problems; the gangster had decided the last goal of his life – to flee away from India after getting a handsome amount through the insurance policy of his younger brother, Shashikant. But kidnapping Sudhir does not help his plans and the story gets a twist when Shashikant is found murdered at his residence. Now Lekh Raj Madaan releases Sudhir from his imprisonment and becomes his client so that the murderer of his brother is exposed because he, himself, is the prime suspect for this murder in the eyes of the police. How Sudhir investigates the case, how the needle of suspicion moves from one suspect to another and finally how our hero catches the real culprit, forms the remaining part of the novel which is a treat for the mystery-readers.
The spicy language and one-liners of Sudhir make the stuff all the more colourful and delicious. Sudhir calls himself as the philosopher-detective (and also the lucky bastard) and in-between his investigative activities, keeps on mouthing his philosophy regarding the life, the money and the women. He is very fond of his receptionist-cum-secretary, Rajni but she, being a decent girl and quite aware of her employer’s bad character, never allows him to put his hand on herself. However she is always concerned about his welfare and sometimes discusses the case at hand with him, furnishing her own ideas about the whodunnit.
I had read the original Hindi version of this novel when it had been written (1990) and read it again afterwards too because I don’t mind reading mysteries again if they have been written quite interestingly (despite the fact that after the first reading, the suspense factor gets extinguished for the reader). And I am glad that my favourite writer’s works are being translated in English now and thus they can get a much wider readership. I recommend this novel wholeheartedly to all the mystery-fans who, after reading it, will confess that our Desi author is, in no way, any less than the well-known English mystery-writers.
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