Another stirring adventure involving the intrepid agents of the Animal Intelligence Agency (AIA): Agent 11.5, Rana; Agent 015, Kela (now number enabled) and Agent 002, Bagha. An elderly, hypochondriac hangul goes missing and the trail leads to Mauritius, where lo and behold, the agents stumble across what is probably the last surviving dodo, which is sure enough kidnapped by the bad guys and must be rescued at all costs.
The ensuing chase takes the Agents to America where they come across a host of psychedelic characters including a pair of twins – one an animal lover and protector, the other a multi-millionaire animal hater. The trail finally ends at the North Pole, where a diabolical dinner is being planned by the big bad guy and it’s up to the Agents of AIA to spoil the dinner party. The piece de resistance of the menu is not one, but two dodos, a pair that if they fell in love, could resurrect the species (though this would mean there would be a lot of messy incest down the line, but never mind.) There are innumerable twists and turns as the Agents pursue clues, solve riddles and follow the trail through the streets of New York and Coelho throws everything into the mix from wacko parties to the Bronx Zoo to the fate of thanksgiving turkeys in yet another roller-coaster ride.
While the plot careens around almost out of control, the characters remain true to type and are well fleshed out and consistent: Rana, the computer whiz prone to allergies, yet again shows that intelligence is perhaps a better option than violence. In this adventure, we also see the first glimmerings of a budding, if long-distance, romance with a school friend, which hopefully will develop in further adventures. Kela, the ex-disgraced Agent, now proudly carries a number and is the perfect smart-ass foil to Bagha, the magnificent Royal Bengal tiger, and the only Agent with a license to kill.
The dialogue throughout is crisp and fresh and tart as a new packet of tangy chips. Love and romance do play a role in this adventure as the Agents’ secret weapon is a magical “love potion” that can be used to turn the tables on their enemies. There are, however, very few doses, so it must be deployed judiciously…
The only sticking point is the rather doleful dodo. As far as everyone knows, they’ve been dead and gone for three hundred years now and won’t be coming back ever. Resurrecting them, even in a wild adventure as this, might dilute the significance of the fact that extinction like death – it is death, in fact – is forever (Jurassic Park notwithstanding). The few moral homilies (consumerism, the mass consumption of animals for food and worse, for example) that are tossed in from time to time can lead to perplexing debates, which can only be a healthy thing.
Priya Kuriyan’s cover is outstanding and it would have been wonderful if the quirky ‘journal pages’ inside had been illustrated in colour.
A fun and breezy read, with less blood and gore than Tiger by the Tail, but no fewer thrills and spills.
By Ranjit Lal
DEAD AS A DODO
Author: Venita Coelho
Illustrator: Priya Kuriyan
Hachette India, 2015
Subject Category: Contemporary/Fiction