BOOK REVIEW OF – Strangers with Known Faces
BY GAUTAM DUTTA
Paperback: 257 pages
Publisher: Invincible Publishers (2016)
THE PLOT IN BRIEF-
Rajat, Meenakshi, Sadaaf, Amol, and Shanaya are five University students with nothing in common- who should never have met in the first place. They meet after winning a lucky draw- the prize of which was to take part in a puzzle game. Though the game was engrossing, they were unable to solve the puzzle in the stipulated time. However, this lead to the beginning of a deep friendship between them. Their friendship blossomed. But ego and misunderstanding led to an acrimonious break up. They meet again- two decades later- when Shanaya is murdered, and the other four are suspects. The four soon realize that in spite of being estranged for so many years, there were unknown ties that bound them- ties of treachery, deceit, and subterfuge. Ties that have led them to come together in circumstances that no one could have foreseen. And the game that they had left incomplete two decades back has to be played yet again – on a much bigger canvas. Now they have to trust each other, clear their names, and get to the bottom of the mystery, which threatens not only their lives and relationships, but also the fabric of democratic India. As their travels and travails continue, they discover hitherto unknown facets of the people around them, as well as their own selves. Can they succeed in resolving the puzzle this time? Or is history doomed to repeat itself? As hidden aspects of the human personality are revealed, they realize that no one is what he or she appears to be. For the world comprises of ‘Strangers with Known Faces’.
The title is very much appropriate and relevant to the plot. It often occurs that pride and selfishness are muddled with strength and independence. They are neither equal nor similar; in fact, they are polar opposites. A coward may be so cowardly that he masks his weakness with some false personification of power. He is afraid to love and to be loved because love tends to strip bare all emotional barricades. Without love, strength and independence are prone to losing every bit of their worth; they become nothing more than a fearful, intimidated, empty tent lost somewhere in the desert of self. In this era, how much do we know people? Do we know the mask or the skin beneath the mask? Ask anyone and they’ll most likely say their family is crazy, and if they don’t say their family is crazy, their friends are crazy. That’s because everyone is crazy after taking the mask off. People are most themselves when not really trying to fit in, when either alone or around those already closest to them and that is crazy. Strangers with known faces beautifully portray the above instance and make it clear that “We all wear masks, and the time comes when we cannot remove them without removing some of our own skin.”
REVIEW OF THE BOOK-
Let’s begin with the characterization displayed in the story. Each and every individual played their role very well. When you first meet a person, sometimes they’ll pretend to be all that you like. Deception is hard to predict instantly at times, but if you hang with them for a while their true colours will eventually begin to show. This exactly happened when one of the friends was found murdered. As the investigation begins, the plot digs down into the characters’ and will give you firm view of reality against perspectives. I had read somewhere that Perfume was first created to mask the stench of foul and offensive odours… Spices and bold flavourings were created to mask the taste of putrid and rotting meat… What then was music created for? Was it to drown out the voices of others, or the voices within ourselves? Well its upto you to find the answer.
The plot was beautifully crafted and I loved the amalgamation of the sense of disguise with a murder and crime. As Hamlet said to Ophelia,”God has given you one face, and you make yourself another.” The battle between these two halves of identity…Who we are and who we pretend to be, is unwinnable. Just as there are two sides to every story, there are two sides to every person. One that we reveal to the world and another we keep hidden inside. A duality governed by the balance of light and darkness, within each of us is the capacity for both good and evil. But those who are able to blur the moral dividing line hold the true power. The characters’ exhibit this particular phenomenon of duality in this crime thriller.
There is also a touch of love in the plot, but keeping disguise as the major aspect. It has beautifully brought out the fact that If we’re wrapping ourselves up to conceal any vulnerability, whatever happens to us has to go through all those extra layers. Sometimes love doesn’t even reach where we truly live. There goes a beautifully quote by Jennifer Birkett “The mask of art is the means through which corruption is spread. The mask makes vice seem beautiful, turns squalor and nastiness into glamorous thrill, seduces the onlooker into the game – and leaves him or her with the corpse on his hands.”
I loved the way the author had pitched the idea of faces in the entire story. I believe the serial number of a human specimen is the face, that accidental and unrepeatable combination of features. It reflects neither character nor soul, nor what we call the self. The face is only the serial number of a specimen.
I loved the entire plot and the way it gradually moved towards the climax. Speaking frankly, I felt like, there was a closet somewhere inside me. Every day I went near that just to open the door and see all the masks of my face that I hid there. To select one which isn’t me but still would look like me, which would hide me from the world in a better way. Day after day I stored so many masks in that closet that one day I searched for my real face in it and it wasn’t there. I never understood whether I lost it or I forgot how it looked like, the more I searched the most lost I felt.
Please give this thriller a read because it will make you feel that the mask in which you choose to disguise yourself uncovers who you subconsciously are or want to be every time you turn a page of the book. Masks reveal in the eyes the face that lies hidden as if the mask is a dark glass mirroring your soul.
YOU SHOULD READ THIS BECAUSE-
THE “You’ll never know who you are unless you shed who you pretend to be” PLOT
THE CHARECTERIZATION AND THE BEAUTIFUL PLOT SEQUENCE.
Drawbacks (believe me, the negative points are negligible if you compare to the positive aspects)
The climax could have been a bit better.
The beautiful cover and the blurb.
ONCE AGAIN, the characterization and the flow of the plot.
Overall I would like to rate the book 42 on a scale of 50.
4 stars out of 5
Originality of the plot and sub plots- 8/10
Net emotions in the story- 8/10
Usage of words and phrases-8/10
The title, cover and the illustration-9/10
The net impact on the readers- 9/10
Overall, it’s worth reading.
In a mask we are faceless and classless, ageless and anonymous. Masks reveal the primal urge to behave like the beast in rut that leaps on the stranger or waits in the penumbra to be leapt upon. If you want feel the instinct of the above instance please order your copy at
KUDOS TO GAUTAM DUTTA- It was really a beautiful plot.