Reviewer : Puja Roy

Puja is an avid reader who loves to explore life’s various facets and bring them out through her short stories. A Copywriter by profession, she also blogs at speakometer.wordpress.com.

~ Review ~

On the outset, the intriguing cover of the book and the even more mysterious title is reason enough to begin exploring its content. Once there, the reader is taken to a strange world which is rather cold, due to the lack of warmth in the relationships coupled with dysfunctionality that unfolds surreptitiously over a period.

The protagonist Aisha is a mother of two, battling a fractured marriage and the monsters in her mind. She lives on high medications, the untimely intake of which has serious repercussions. A battered soul, she is trying her level best to not allow the mental battle to get into her day-to-day life. Her relationship with her husband has gone dry now, as he is tired of her mental illness and their sexual life is almost non-existent. As if this conundrum wasn’t enough, one rainy afternoon, a lady arrives at her place, saying she is her half-sister, her father’s illegitimate child with another woman. Two days later, Aisha moves out of the house to get household stuff and gets trapped in a landslide and she never returns.

Few days later, a suicide note is mysteriously found in Aisha’s wallet at a forlorn spot proving that she is dead, but the police can’t find her body. She is missing, presumed dead.

Seemingly unperturbed, Heer, her step-sister slips into her missing sister’s shoes effortlessly and gives Prithvi, Aisha’s husband, both the mental and the physical solace that he craves for all the while.

Strange incidents unfold post this. Aisha’s little son, while at a restaurant, gets a flitting glance of her one day. He claims vehemently that it is his mother and that he isn’t mistaken, leaving everyone flabbergasted. Does that mean Aisha is alive? If she is, where is she? As everyone around Aisha meddle through a labyrinth of emotions, they themselves undergo an inner transformation. The children grow up suddenly in the absence of their mother, the cruelty of reality leaving a dent on their tender minds. Prithvi, ages fast and turns pale with exhaustion and unexpected deceit.

He eventually also gets caught into property tussle as all the property belonged to his missing wife, and Heer, after few months of Aisha’s sudden disappearance, leaves the house without saying a word to anyone. Is Aisha dead or is she alive? Does Prithvi eventually find out her whereabouts? Is Heer for real? If she is real, why did she suddenly leave the house unannounced and where did she go? Kiran Manral’s psychological thriller, makes for a compact read that takes the readers into the folds of its unpredictable tale.

The language part needs to have a special mention here. Kiran weaves fantastic images with her deft use of words. Sample this:

“The next morning dawned, cold and foggy. The grime had coagulated into oily streaks of residue on the window that trickled down in lines within the vapour, as he breathed on it. From the vacant distance, he heard the muezzin’s call to prayer, a shepherding of the faithful towards their religious obligations.”

Set in an outlandish, mountainous part of the North India, Kiran Manral’s ‘Missing, Presumed Dead’ brings to the fore, as the blurb says, ‘the fragility of relationships, the ugly truths about love and death and the horrifying loss of everything we hold dear, including ourselves.’

A complete page turner that makes for an engrossing read, this book is recommended for all those who love psychological thrillers.

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