Hydrangea is Lajo Jose's follow up to his highly successful 'Coffee House', the second book in journalist turned private investigator Esther's crime series.Like his previous work, Hydrangea is also an investigative crime thriller, but unlike 'Coffee House' which had a heavy 'S.N. Swamy-K.Madhu' movies' hang over to it, 'Hydrangea' is modelled mostly on the western 'stalker' crime thrillers(Lars Kepler's book with the same name seems to be Lajo's reference point for this work, as the similarities and inspiration are pretty much evident).
So, the plot goes somewhat like this- A serial killer is threatening the city with his maverick crimes and the modus operandi is pretty weird, he shoots a short video of his unassuming victim pretty much before the actual act of crime and sends it to the city police chief ,virtually challenging them to stop the crime from being committed. But since the videos don't leave much clue about the victims except for a grainy image of them in their cabins, the police also can't do much about it.Private Investigator Esther and the firm which she is working for,headed by Ali Imran also gets entangled in this rigmarole and their task is cut out as the killer is on his violent spree!
Lajo Jose has definitely improved when compared to his debut novel and this time around his plot is sharp and the narrative is also quite fast paced.The pointless banter between Aparna and Esther has been trimmed down for good this time around.The characters of Ali Imran, the lady IPS officer and that of Esther were quite poorly developed.And last but not the least,Lajo's obession with his debut work is quite evident with multiple instances of that book being referred to in Hydrangea, which to be honest, was a bit irritating, after a point.
But whatever said and done, I enjoyed reading Hydrangea.Though it's heavily inspired by the Western thrillers of similar genre , Lajo has delivered a decent addition to the almost extinct Malayalam Pulp Crime genre!
I'm giving it a 3 out of 5!