Jane De Suza’s The Spy Who Lost Her Head is an entertaining read that successfully marries a comedy and a thriller – with delightful results!
Review by Rohini Haldea
Jane De Suza’s novel The Spy Who Lost Her Head is a hilarious romp that follows the adventures of ‘village belly’ Gulabi who has come to Mumbai to catch herself a husband, armed with a questionable grasp of the Queen’s English and her ‘Dickensary’. Soon after her arrival, she sets her sights on the perfect candidate for the job – her landlord and Bemba (short form for Bachelor of Engineering, MBA and a prerequisite for a suitable groom) – and sets out to win his heart. In her pursuit of him, she manages to completely traumatise the beleaguered young man by destroying his laptop and his bedroom, amongst other things.
Her (mis)adventures come to a head (quite literally) when she inadvertently finds herself in possession of a human head that has been tragically separated from the body it belonged to. No shrinking violet this protagonist, she promptly rechristens herself SS (for Super Spy, of course) Gulabi and takes a vow to bring the perpetrators of this crime to book.
You would think that the very prominent presence of a decapitated human head through most of the story would be a dampener on the humour element, but the plot ploughs on with multiple comic twists and turns without a blink. The book takes the very established genre of murder mysteries and turns it on its head. With goons (looking to retrieve the missing head, and hers too in the bargain) hot on her heels, Gulabi leads us through a merry dance through the streets of Mumbai with all the chills, spills and thrills one would associate, with a thriller, only a lot funnier.
Gulabi makes for an engaging and lovable protagonist, especially since I am a sucker for non-traditional heroines. With her fish-shaped eyes (‘more pomfret than mackerel’), goldfish lips and well-padded figure, she is no femme fatale by any stretch of the imagination but she has more than enough personality and confidence packed into her ample frame to make up for any perceived physical shortcomings.
I do wonder whether readers without a good grasp of Hindi will be able to enjoy this book since much of the humour comes from Gulabi’s mistranslations of Hindi words and phrases into what she considers the Queen’s English. Even with my somewhat rusty Hindi, I felt somewhat frustrated at not getting all the jokes, though I got enough of them to enjoy the book.
I was slightly disappointed by the ending, which seemed very abrupt and did not have all the ends tied up as tightly as I would have liked. Had this been a serious spy or detective novel, this would have been a total turn-off for me but in this book, it didn’t matter as much since I got more than my money’s worth from the many, many laugh-out-loud moments in the story.
If you are looking for a fun read packed with a guffaw-a-minute, look no further.
And be prepared to laugh your head off. (Sorry, that was irresistible.)
Publishers: Harper Collins.
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