Sitharaam Jayakumar’s Eighty Hours to Save Karen is a 69-page taut thriller. It combines elements of science fiction and horror into a mystery that makes for a quick read. Retired Air Force Commodore Mathew lives in a remote village in the hills along with his granddaughter Karen Lakshmi, the only surviving member of his family.
One day, Karen is afflicted with a strange ailment. While playing, she falls unconscious, in Snow White style, after eating an apple-shaped object. The doctors can’t understand what is wrong with her as her body temperature continues to dip and none of her blood tests reveal anything.
The devoted grandfather is at his wit’s end as he tries to get to the bottom of this mystery. It becomes clear to him that there are sinister forces at play. Matt’s suspicions are further confirmed when an aging gardener sheds some light on the history of his current residence and the unhappy secrets it harbors.
Are supernatural elements at play? Is there some rational scientific explanation? Why would anyone want to harm Karen, an innocent child? Will Mathew be able to solve the mystery before it is too late?
The plot is unique and has chills and thrills. The initial hints of occult and fiendish villains make it quite spooky. Mathew’s character has been well etched to depict the troubled protagonist battling regrets from the past. The final reveal and explanation takes the reader by surprise.
The title is a tad misleading. Eighty hours seems to indicate a kidnapping (like in the movie ‘Taken’) but the story is very different from what you would expect. Would have loved additional information on Karen, the titular character, and the tender bond she shares with her grandfather. There is definite potential to expand this novella into a full-fledged novel.
Looking forward to reading more from the author!