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.
Reviewed by Anushka Ray
Title: The Scorpion (Trans)
Author: Kim Won-il
Publisher: Kitaab International, Singapore
There is a throbbing ache of subdued anger throughout The Scorpion, an ever-present bitterness, which seeps through the most deadpan of narration and into the hearts of the readers. The Scorpion by Kim Won-il finds its footing with this: a constant pragmatic voice, but full of resentment, to emphasize the loss of desire to romanticize the world in which these characters find themselves.
The novel follows Kang Jae-pil, his father Kang Cheon-dong and, briefly, his father’s father Kang Chi-mu, as each man navigates the tension he faces in Korean society. Each alternate chapter adopts a different perspective as a way to seamlessly and organically transition between timelines and generations. We venture into the narrator Jae-pil’s thoughts and feelings as he grapples with life right out of prison. Kang Jae-pil’s matter of fact observations are riddled and tangled with acute detail, giving way to a man who perhaps has deep sensitivities, a startling recognition of guilt and gratitude for the family he let down. Jae-pil’s meetings with his step-sister Myeong-hee (who holds greater importance as the story continues) as well as his grandmother, excel in showcasing glittering remnants of humanity that he holds onto despite his seven years in prison.
Jae-pil vows to leave behind his gangster lifestyle in Seoul as he travels to meet his family and eventually begins writing his deceased grandfather’s biography as a way to show his respect and perhaps as a way for him to move on from the years he spent behind bars. His story is by far the most engaging, largely attributable to the first person narration, a man who feels regret and has potential. Won-il travels in time through flashbacks and dialogue to explore Jae-pil’s perilous journey and brings alive the Korean society as it morphs through the ages. As the novel unfolds, Won-il seems to gain in confidence and fluidity with Jae-pil’s character and begins to introduce more graceful description of the beauty found in nature. Despite this, at its core the story remains dark – Jae-pil is haunted by vices, much like his father was; we find ourselves screaming at him to resist his temptations when he begins turning to drinking and crime. While the lack in build up does not prepare us for this, it’s not surprising in the context of the character’s past. Regardless of this, Jae-pil stays the most likeable man of the three.
Reviewed by Sujata Raye
Title: The Guru Who Came Down from the Mountain
Author: Roshen Dalal
Publisher: Speaking Tiger Books
This first novel by Roshen Dalal is ideal to read during a train journey or while waiting for a flight, when a cup of coffee and a racy book with intrigue and murder are sufficient to make the wait enjoyable. It begins with the introduction of the novel’s two main characters. Dev and Nityanand or Nitya. Devdarshan is Nityanand’s Guru and dying of AIDS. The initial few chapters, alternately, tell the reader the background of both Dev and Nitya.
The story is Dev’s; Nitya is only a tool to unfold it, the foil to Dev’s negativity. Nitya comes down to see his dying Guru at his ashram in Rishikesh. Out of sheer ignorance he has stood witness in the court, swearing Dev’s purity and celibacy, facilitating unknowingly, the dismissal of all cases of sexual coercion against his guru. Nitya is angry with himself for betraying the innocent. He remembers the accusations of drug dealing, of guns and weapons, of murders and deaths, while he was in Dev’s ashram in the US.
The story unfolds through Dev’s writings that he hands over to Nitya to read. That part of Dev’s life is a reminder of the recent shenanigans and expose` of several godmen in the country. It is quite apparent where the story is leading, yet the details of how ashrams are opened, how greed and weak minds can succumb to the lure of going to foreign lands – how women become easy victims of the Guru they blindly follow, keep the reader engaged.
Kitaab – Call for Submissions Kitaab is seeking high quality short stories for The Best Asian Crime Fiction anthology to be […]
Reviewed by Minakhi Misra
A college student axes three of his friends during a jungle party and goes missing afterwards. A schoolteacher locks a classroom full of students and murders eleven of them in cold blood, only to have his own head blown off by a sniper. The leader of the militant outfit that claims responsibility for the sniping operation dies the next day in his own building.
These deaths make up just the twenty opening pages of India’s first crowd-sourced and crowd-curated novel. Debutant author Uday Satpathy’s Brutal is the first book to shine out of Rashmi Bansal’s trailblazing publishing venture Bloody Good Book, and it is quite literally “bloody” and “good” to its core.
Proudhon said, “Property is theft”; Balzac said, “Behind great fortunes without apparent cause lies a crime forgotten.”
Well, if great wealth is a great crime, Kevin Kwan’s “China Rich Girlfriend,” a sequel to his 2013 “Crazy Rich Asians,” slots neatly into the grand tradition of true-crime narratives — those lurid paperbacks that aim to repulse and to fascinate, all in order to keep you turning the page.
A fast-paced novel, based on the kidnapping of an American journalist in Karachi: Mint
The most engaging examples of crime fiction show you not only how their protagonist’s mind works, but also how the city they are operating in works: the Edinburgh of John Rebus, the various Italian cities of Aurelio Zen, the Bangkok of Sonchai Jitpleecheep. With his debut novel The Prisoner
, Omar Shahid Hamid lets the reader see through the eyes of deputy superintendent Constantine D’Souza of Karachi’s Central Prison and also get an insight into the city.
For an introduction to India’s cultural and culinary delights, you might hop a flight to Delhi or book a trip to Mumbai. But to meet the country sans passport free of airport indignities, you could just curl up with the crime novels of Tarquin Hall.
Vish Puri, Hall’s opinionated private investigator, is a 50-something Punjabi super sleuth with a fondness for family and food. The mustachioed detective cracks open India’s underbelly with a caseload that delves into forbidden love, corruption in Indian cricket and the deadly clash between science and superstition.