Monday, February 22, 2016

Raakshas by Piyush Jha : A Review

BOOK TITLE: Raakshas

AUTHOR: Piyush Jha

ISBN/ASIN: 9789385724206

GENRE: Fiction / Crime Thriller


FORMAT: Paperback


HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank WritersMelon for this review copy.


What made him a serial killer?

Was he born with homicidal tendencies?

Did a harrowing childhood render him criminally insane?

The questions haunt, Additional Commissioner of Police, Maithili Prasad as she discovers the horrific murders across Mumbai. As she spearheads the greatest manhunt in Mumbai’s history, she’s determined to contain the reign of terror unleashed by the ruthless serial killer. But before that she must grapple with her personal demons that surface to plague her with self-doubt.

Just as it seems that Maithili has begun to understand the deep-rooted resentment that drives the serial killer, he turns around and makes her the object of his revenge. Will she emerge unscathed from this ordeal?

This thrilling narrative of a serial killer’s life and the unusual and challenging investigation to catch him, uncovers a chilling trail of unspeakable torment and cruelty—the tale of… Raakshas.


The cover seemed chilling enough. The simple mugshot of a man with a bloodied knife and bloodshot eyes felt very apt for the title. Raakshas - a demon, devil, someone ruthless. Having already read a previous work of the author, (Anti Social Network), I thought I knew what to expect. The blurb about a troubled female police officer trying to track a dangerous serial killer and ending up being on his hit list seemed strangely generic but also left enough options open for different interpretations.

I took the 'Soon to be a major motion picture' tag with a pinch of salt. That is not a deal clincher in my opinion.


There are very few books that manage to hook the reader into the story in page one. Most books try, though. The story promises to be about India's number one serial killer, a man who is everyone's nightmare, a man who makes people afraid to even walk on the streets. The beginning though, is not what one would expect from such a book. Having read about serial killers in many previous books, I had assumed this book would also begin with a chilling murder and set the tone for the story. Instead, it begins with the birth of a child who would one day terrorise the city. The second chapter though, again begins with the birth of another character. By this time, I had trained my mind to expect the journeys of both these characters penned in the chronological order to and after the point where their lives cross.

No. It does not do that, not exactly. But it does that, in one way. The previous few lines are examples of how the story has been sequenced in this book. What started out with great expectations faltered in the way it was presented. I would not go so far as to say it ruined the story and premise, but all through the book I had a nagging feeling that with proper presentation this could have been even better. Maithili Prasad, a cop with a troubled past, an officer who keeps insisting that murders happening in the city are the work of a serial killer and doggedly follows that line.

The highlight of the book is easily the background story of the serial killer. It does not sympathise with the killer as is, nor does it justify the actions he has committed. But it does give us a little insight into what makes serial killers. Are the parents to blame? Or is it the society? What makes a normal human into such a developed version of a psychopath that he takes pleasure in killing other people? What makes a man think being 'Mumbai's number one serial killer' is an achievement he needs to obtain? The book tells a generic story that could have happened, and maybe is happening to many young boys and girls.

But where the book falters is in its execution. The story is convincing, but some places could have been written better. The killings lose their horrifying thrills after a point of time. Sometimes there is no time for the reader to get acquainted with the victims and therefore feel for the loss of their life - a crucial element in making a book on serial killers chilling and emotionally wounding. The most believable part of the story is the place where the killer himself becomes obsessed with his pursuer, a cliche formula that is the sad truth. Stoking his ego by rating him was a master touch, and shows the insensitivity of some media houses during such important times. A lesson that can never be overdone.

  • The additional information on lesser known serial killers (an appendix of sorts)
  • The background story of what made the serial killer the man he had become.
  • The title and the summary.

  • Maybe it is the prominently displayed 'soon to be a motion picture' tagline on the cover that did it, or maybe it was the style itself, but the narration did feel like a recollection more than a chronological story.
  • The killings lose their thrill factor after some time.
  • No matter what backstory, the reader can never symphatise with the killer!


Raakshas - not as thrilling as the title, but still a terrific book!

RATING: 3.5/5


Piyush Jha is an acclaimed film director, ad filmmaker and the author of the bestselling novel, Mumbaistan and Compass Box Killer.

A student political leader at university, he pursued a career in advertising management after acquiring an MBA degree. Later, he switched tracks, first to make commercials for some of the country’s largest brands, and then to write and direct feature films.

His films include Chalo America, King of Bollywood and Sikandar.

He lives in his beloved Mumbai, where he can often be found walking the streets that inspire his stories.


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