Book Review by Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Title: You Beneath Your Skin
Author: Damyanti Biswas
Publisher: Simon & Schuster India, Sept 2019
You Beneath Your Skin by Damyanti Biswas came into my radar when I was reading few excellent thrillers by Indian women authors. I had already been won over by the clever skills with which each of those stories had been crafted, so my expectations were on a rise. The blurb of the story says that You Beneath Your Skin is about relationships and crimes set in Delhi. However, what the last sentence might make you believe, the story isn’t your run-of-the-mill kind of crime committed by people in some relationship.
What You Beneath Your Skin about is a whole lot of different yet related aspects of life. From personal relationships, each different from the other, to professional relationships, the story is mainly about Anjali and Jatin. While it has a lot to do about their relationship, there is a lot else that is quite important to the story that hold ground without taking allegiance from the protagonist couple.
We have Anjali, a single mother of Indo-American descent with an autistic teenage son. Anjali is a psychiatrist and works at a hospital. Her work extends to NGOs and the downtrodden. This takes her to the dark underbelly of the national capital, Delhi. She is shown as an independent woman who has a lot in her plate yet tries her best to add more to it and make everything work. Her son Nikhil is a teenager — a quite problematic age as it is — his autism adding to troubles for the mother-son duo. Nikhil’s condition, Anjali’s treatment of it, and how situations are handled have been described in a very smart and sensitive manner through the eye of someone who has probably worked with similar situations.
Anjali and Nikhil stay with Maya. Maya is a private investigator, much younger to Anjali, and a good friend to both of them. She is also Jatin’s younger sister and hence, Anjali’s sister-in-law. She is a strong supporting character right from the beginning.
And lastly, we have Jatin. A police officer with a complex family, the main characters of which are his wife, son, father-in-law and sister, Maya. In the different shades of Jatin’s character in life, the depiction has been extremely well-rounded. While he is at the mercy of his father-in-law who is also much senior to him at work, he is the stronger one when it comes to his personal life with Maya, Anjali and Nikhil. He indulges his son without questioning mostly, and one needs to be very observant of this relationship as the story proceeds.
You Beneath Your Skin covers topics ranging from autism, vitiligo (a skin condition), relationships, NGOs, their functioning, corruption, poverty, acid attacks, and more. Author Damyanti Biswas works with Delhi’s underprivileged children which explains the clarity with which the lives of these kids and their surroundings have been included in the plot.
Readers need more mainstream novels that challenge their mind, and You Beneath Your Skin did does that effortlessly. A thriller which plays on ones’ emotions and situations, makes it increasingly difficult to tear oneself away from the book till it ends. A very well-written story, the author has done a fine job of keeping readers enthralled. The theme of the book is violence against women, paired with other life situations. No part of it has been romanticised in the book, and things have been written in a very hard-hitting manner.
One day, Jatin asks Anjali to take a look at a body that has been found. Owing her professional knowledge, he believes she could help in identifying the body which couldn’t be recognised. Anjali’s observations find details that might have skipped another eye.
When Ram Sharan, Radhe, and Sakhi’s mother Sujni went missing, it was clear that there was more to it than met the eye. Investigating at different levels, it slowly became evident that there are more complications and links to the horrific crime that has been committed, than what Anjali had anticipated. Someone in the city seems to be abducting slum women and bodies of these women are being found with the faced disfigured with acid, stuffed in trash bags
A gruesome crime gets committed many times in this story, but You Beneath Your Skin also delves into the ‘why’ of the crime committed which takes it a few notches up for me. When crimes, the likes of which are committed in real life are written about, it is natural that one would wonder why such a horrific act was even committed. To take this thought and include it in the story was a master stroke.
Jatin and Anjali need to find the criminals and address extremely uncomfortable facts when they come face to face with them. Does that affect their relationship? Are the criminals caught and brought to justice? Is there a happy ending when gruesome crimes are committed by and to people you love? The plot of You Beneath Your Skin has many more questions which get tied down together at the very end.
Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma has been consuming stories from the time she was just a few months old. She’s grown up spinning tales in her head and hopes to write her magnum opus someday. She has recently published an Ebook called Write. Edit. Promote.on Amazon. Samarpita is a professional independent manuscript editor and blogs on
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