Sonia wrote this novel in one week and that is indeed a commendable job. Raya Ray reminds me of all the female detectives we grew up reading. From Miss Marple to Nancy Drew to the new age Bengali female detective Mitin Masi by late Suchitra Bhattacharya. In fact, Raya Ray was almost carrying forward the unfinished works of Mitin Masi. She can replace Mitin Masi literally, as Suchitra Bhattacharya is no more amongst us.
I liked Sonia’s layered approach to the novel. It starts ‘in medias res‘ and then takes us to Raya’s past. Her tragedy, her pain and how she found the motivation to become a detective. The character of Raya is very relatable. She is like any typical Bengali middle-class woman. Her bonding with her maid Sutapa is also relatable. Raya has been shown a woman who has her own vulnerabilities and I liked the bit where she cries in her sleep. This kind of gives a tender touch to her otherwise tough character.
I loved how Sonia also gave us a glimpse of the history of Munshigunj in her story. Funnily this historical bit brought me back memories of my puja vacations that I used to spend reading ‘Pandav Goenda’ the Bengali equivalent of Famous Five. In those stories there used to be lots of heavy historical facts. However, I felt that even though the historical trivia was interesting it kind of reduced the pace of the detective novel. As a reader, I like to read detective novels that are fast-paced. I agree Satyajit Ray often gave historical facts within his Feluda novels however he weaved it in such a manner that it never compromised with the pace of the novel.
Sonia is a great storyteller and the way she was narrating the whole story was commendable in itself. However, too much detailing has at times made the progress of the story slightly slow. Too many characters also made the novel less crispy. But I loved the premise of this story that deals with an extremely pertinent issue. I do not want to give a spoiler, therefore, I am not detailing the issue. As a debut detective novelist, I would give Sonia full marks for trying this genre and actually be able to write a novel in such a short time. This novel is promising and perhaps she should publish it soon. All the best.