We do not do justice to children when it comes to stories meant for them. For a long time, adults decided what was ‘proper’ for children to read and what was not and young people therefore, got to read things they would rather not have.
It was therefore with some amount of trepidation that picked up Shweta Taneja’s novel The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong, a story involving the adventures of pre-teen protagonist Kartik Godse. Any children’s story that has ghosts in it can go two ways: It can be an excitiong romp into the supernatural, or it can be an exercise in rational thinking (disproving superstitions and suchlike). I will not spoil the surprise for you in this review, but when I began the book, I remember thinking that Shweta Taneja could have gone either way seeing as how her work — in graphic novels for the most part — has had large doses of magic and mythology.
In any case, back to the book at hand. The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong takes the young hero Kartik and his accomplices Opus and Tahir on an exciting (by 12-year-old standards) adventure to unravel the mystery behind the haunted (is it really?) Iyer Bungalow. In the course of the adventure, the reader meets the townsfolk of Kurseong (they are all mostly nice people) and oddball characters of many hues (the paranormal investigators of the DPRS for example).
Shweta Taneja does justice to the small town flavour of her setting, reminding one, at some points, of RK Narayan’s Malgudi. Her characters are lively, curious, and lovable (except for the ones that aren’t) and the young heroes’ adventure weaves in and out of their daily lives. Inquisitive Kartik, boisterous Opus and mild-mannered Tahir balance school and detective work as best as they can. They do not always succeed, but it would have been boring if they had.
All in all, Shweta Taneja does not fall into the category of adults who does not understand what kids would rather read. The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong is a fine mystery, a proper mystery.