Umberto Eco, offering advice on his complicated task of writing, said, “If we think that our reader is an idiot, we should not use rhetorical figures, but if we use them and feel the need to explain them, we are essentially calling the reader an idiot. In turn, he will take revenge by calling the author an idiot.”
Sensible advice and one worth following. Saurabh Mathur, sadly, does not stick to the famous librarian's words. His debut novel ' The Secretive Six' reads through like a badly shot film that leaves you regretting the ticket price. Revolving around a group of 'super' cops seeking to solve the mysterious murder of an IIT professor, the story becomes predictable in a way it shouldn't be. As a writer, the author needs to dominate the pace of the story, releasing plot points and Macguffins slowly. Mathur, on the other hand, seeks to explain every bit. Nothing ever happens by accident in Mathur's novel. While that might be a fascinating philosophy for Sherlock Holmes to live by, it reduces the allure of a suspense novel. After all, where would the suspense be, if the protagonists knew how anything and everything happens. This is one of the key reasons why creating an antagonist in a suspense novel requires just as much work as creating its main characters. For every Batman to work, you need the Joker. For every Sherlock, there needs to be a genuine, bonafide, genius Moriarty.
The novel does have its good parts. The characters are well fleshed out, and the murder, though not mysterious, does have its complexities. The technical aspects of crime solving and forensic science do emerge in some detail. This is a credit to the writer's research, we presume. It would make for an engrossing read if you have the time to spare. Otherwise, Saurabh Mathur might want to take Umberto Eco's advice and try sparing the readers all the details next time.