Book Title: Trinoyoni – The Slaughterer of Sonagachi
Author: Moitrayee Bhaduri
Published by: Rupa Publications
Reading is definitely an art form that allows a person to explore the limits that one never expects. Being an avid reader is a blessing and boon. I came to know about Sonagachi in last year’s Tata Literature Festival book – Death in Sonagachi by Rijula Das. When I came across Trinoyoni by Moitrayee Bhaduri, the tagline attracted me, and immediately picked up the book. But the story blew my mind and senses.
Trinoyoni is a dramatized version of Troilokya Debi’s real-life story as India’s first known serial murderer. The plot follows Trinoyoni, known as Trina as a kid, from her birth in 1840 until her transformation into a serial killer.
The story’s main hook is how circumstances pushed a simple innocent girl from a conventional household to become the Slaughterer of Sonagachi, Calcutta’s famed red-light neighborhood. Trinoyoni’s life is a roller coaster journey, from meeting her tutor Tara to accidentally landing in Sonagachi, to being the most renowned and sought-after prostitute, to killing many people.
The narrative is fascinating since it is based on a true incident that occurred more than a century ago. While the title and synopsis give away where the tale is going, the various twists and turns Trinoyoni‘s life takes throughout the novel are completely unexpected. Even the epilogue is an intriguing examination of a serial killer’s psychology and the conditions that shape it.
Along with an intriguing plot, the novel contains a subtle but pertinent reflection on the socioeconomic realities of the time — when the country fell under British authority, famines led common people to resort to extreme tactics to live, widowed women had absolutely no life — and more. In the second part of the book, the police methods when there is no technology to break cases are intriguing.
There are several characters, but the author takes care to weave them into the plot in a way that does not confuse the reader. Of course, Trinoyoni is the most engaging and one-of-a-kind protagonist you’ve ever read about. I wish the author had given us greater insight into her mind and her relationship with Ram Babu, as well as her willingness to be an accomplice, which eventually rendered her vicious.