Manjiri Prabhu in ‘Trail of Four’ delivers on what she promises. A whodunnit mystery adventure with interesting characters, fun contexts, scenic settings, smart riddles, the right amount of misdirects and a pinch of fantasy

Manjiri Prabhu, Bloomsbury,`399
Manjiri Prabhu, Bloomsbury,`399

Set in the picturesque Austrian city of Salzburg Manjiri Prabhu weaves a tale of deadly treasure hunt in her latest ‘The Trail of Four’. The book begins as a standard whodunnit but switches sneakily into an adventure mystery. 

Detailed accounts of history, arts and architecture of Salzburg spread tastefully across the narrative will transport the reader into the very streets of Austria. Readers with a keen eye for detail would find that the mysteries of plot are rather obvious to predict and the riddles rather simple. Yet the book’s charm is in this simplistic cosy flow that makes for a pleasant uncomplicated read. 

Re is a French-Indian investigative journalist with an unconventional psychic ability to get premonitions. Isabel is a historian stricken by grief due to her missing husband. Dan is a distinguished hotelier, who runs the Hotel Schloss Leopolskron. Stefan is the Police chief of Salzburg with a history with Isabel and undeterred sense of duty to the safety of Salzburg. Lives of these take an unexpected abrupt turn into one another when the heart of a prince archbishop is ransacked from its burial coffin.

Max Reinhardt was a famous theatre director who loved the arts, drama and Schloss Leopolskron over anything else in the World. But when the Nazi wave threatened to consume Salzburg in World War II he was forced to abandon Schloss and a secret. This secret was to be the instigator for a threat greater than the Nazis, a threat that promised to destroy the essence of Salzburg. Ghosts from the past were bearing down on the present to turn the future dark for all the good people of Salzburg.

The Hotel Schloss Leopolskron is about to host the Salzburg Global Seminar. The heart is crucial in restoring the energy balance of the city. The secret that Reinhardt left behind is the ransom the thief desires. After nearly half-a-century the protagonists are to tread the ‘Trail of Four’. Time is the greatest threat to the wonders of the past, eroding and hiding, corroding and encasing the then in a shell hiding it from plain sight. In 48 hours Salzburg will be irreversibly changed for the better or worse. 

We are flooded by a cacophony of information as the riddles unravel to reveal greater details about the history of Salzburg, its greatest son Mozart, its rich cultural and religious ties to all of Europe and its wonders. The narrative heavily reads like a travel guide to the city and its historic monuments. 

It definitely is something that the travellers would find fascinating while the mystery lovers consider unnecessary. The simple straight forward plotlines roll off one into the other with an ease that is soothing and inviting. The book would be a great bedtime read if you manage to put the book down once you begin.

I rate the book a 3.5 out of 5 for doing justice to what it sets out to do. The elements of instinct, premonition, energy balance, secret groups, fate and such unexplained spread thinly around the narrative, looking back seem out of place but in context stay true to the nature of the characters as they are designed in the plot. 

By: Shirish Amirineni

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