Taaza Khabar (breaking news) is the 93rd novel of the very popular Sunil Series created by eminent Hindi mystery writer Surendra Mohan Pathak. It’s relatively a small novel but the story has been spread on a large canvas and provides a satisfactory reading to whosoever grabs its copy and reads it.
The title of the novel is as such because a copy of a newspaper being circulated in the afternoon (not morning) named as ‘Taaza Khabar’ plays a significant role in the story which is a murder mystery. The murder takes place not at the usual place of the novels of this series, i.e., Rajnagar which is a fictitious metropolitan city of India but at a nearby tourist place known as Jhery.
The murder victim is actually a wealthy businessman of Rajnagar named as Janardan Modi but at the time of the killing, he is staying under a fake name – Nemchand Jain and under the disguise of a poor peasant who is willing to open a poultry farm in that area.
The purpose of the murder victim behind living under this fake identity was a complicated one. In that particular region, several peasants had grown crops through their toil without owning the relevant pieces of land as the real owners of the land were not known and they were considered as freely available for peasantry. Janardan Modi wanted to build a grand hotel cum health club and golf course on the same and therefore, he had been instigating the concerned peasants to sell their land to him, offering them attractive price for the same. However some of such peasants were not ready to part with the pieces of land under their possession and for the purpose of canvassing clandestinely among them, Modi had donned the disguise of Nemchand Jain so that those peasants could trust him (considering him as someone like them only).
The name of one such peasant who is more vocal against purchase of this land by Modi is Hukum Chand Thaaliya who is a good friend of Jawahar Singh, the editor of the local tabloid ‘Jhery Times’. Both of them visit the cottage of Janardan Modi aka Nemchand Jain who does not open the door for them. Next day, he is found as shot dead in the cottage. The investigating officer is a sub-inspector from the local police chowki. His name is Kirparam and he is not a smart cop. So quite naturally, the onus of catching the murderer falls on the shoulders of our hero Sunil Kumar Chakravarty only who is the ace reporter of a national daily ‘Blast’. Even before the murder taking place, he had sent his junior reporter Arjun to Jhery to talk to the locals regarding this whole mishmash pertaining to the land, the prospective buyer and the reluctant sellers.
Suspects are many and a stylish compact found (in broken condition) on the murder spot indicates that some urban female must be involved in the case. The initials of that mysterious lady are engraved on that compact as N.M. The name of the victim’s wife is Nisha and she has been having an illicit affair with a person named as Anil Mehra which is going to be exposed due to the private detectives engaged by her suspicious husband to keep a watch on her. Can this N.M. be Nisha Modi ?
Among other suspects, there is one employee of Modi who has embezzled his employer’s money for gambling, his girlfriend who is concerned for his job as well as his future (once that embezzlement is exposed), a business rival of Modi and the like wise.
Besides the broken compact, a document appearing like a suicide note is also found near the dead body of the victim. The unusual thing about that so-called suicide note is that it’s not been written or typed but prepared by pasting the words of the text cut from a newspaper. It’s found out that this newspaper is the mid-day published newspaper of Rajnagar, Taaza Khabar (of a particular date).
One more clue found on the murder spot is a lit candle whose significance is difficult to understand. Our hero (with the help of his junior) carries out an experiment to check as to how much part of such a candle gets burnt up (after getting lit) in a particular time period which gives him an idea regarding the probable time of the murder. He examines all the suspects including those having an airtight alibi for them and finally unmasks the murderer in a dramatic manner.
Written in simple Hindi, this novel can be read in a single sitting like a regular movie because it is not bulky. The author has abstained from inserting superfluous things in the narrative and kept it crisp. It’s a damn interesting novel and no mystery fan can afford to leave it in-between after starting to read it. And it’s definitely a treat for the admirers of the famous Hindi author.
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