Interestingly when I sat down to reading My Lawfully Wedded Husband and Other Stories written by Madhulika Liddle I was pleasantly amused to see that the book was officially classified as crime fiction. While there are stories in it that do represent crime as a genre, I would slot it in the black humour category. In fact given that ever since her work, Silent Fear, was picked up by a woman’s magazine in 2001, Liddle has been churning out delightfully interesting short stories that defiantly defies any attempt to pin her genre down.
Coming to the book itself, it consists of 12 short stories, which in their own ways are dark, eerily humourous and offer enough scope to be classified as thrillers. Stories such as On the Night Train, Silent Feat and even Feet of Clay, are woven quite tight, and could be placed on the thriller threshold.
Liddle, who gave readers the believable and original Mughal detective Muzaffar Jang (the hero of The Englishman’s Cameo, The Eighth Guest & Other Muzaffar Jang Mysteries,) has a terrific writing style, which being taut and racy prove to be invaluable companions in My Lawfully Wedded Husband and Other Stories, too. In telling the stories of My Lawfully Wedded Husband and In A Brief Lesson in Trust, Liddle gets darkly humorous. Without giving away too much, I found the latter to be a very believable tale of a school girl who comes to terms with trust issues.
The racy pace she adopts for her Muzaffar Jang stories, is also seen in stories such as St George and the Dragon and The Howling Waves of Tranquebar. One can see shades of that sardonic humour that one has now come to associate with Jang’s character in George, an unassuming government clerk chalks out a devious plan to outsmart his evil boss. In The Howling Waves of Tranquebar, however, the reader travels to an old Danish settlement where ironically a beer mug has strange powers of destruction.
But I am essentially straying away from the experiences I had while reading. There were occasions, especially in The Howling Waves... which gave it an eerie feeling. So ok, I was reading it late into the night, which added to the effect. But the book does have moments of brilliance.
In addition, stories like The Crusader are spun hilariously out of everyday situation.
On the whole, Liddle’s book is not definitely a breezy read. The stories range from dark to twisted and needs some time to settle down. If you are thinking of on-the-go reading, don’t pick this one. Because you will be doing both Liddle as well as the brilliantly crafted characters gross injustice. Sit down with the book when there is plenty of time on your hands.