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The Blue Bar Paperback – Jan. 1 2023
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On the dark streets of Mumbai, the paths of a missing dancer, a serial killer, and an inspector with a haunted past converge in an evocative thriller about lost love and murderous obsession.
After years of dancing in Mumbai’s bars, Tara Mondal was desperate for a new start. So when a client offered her a life-changing payout to indulge a harmless, if odd, fantasy, she accepted. The setup was simple: wear a blue-sequined saree, enter a crowded railway station, and escape from view in less than three minutes. It was the last time anyone saw Tara.
Thirteen years later, Tara’s lover, Inspector Arnav Singh Rajput, is still grappling with her disappearance as he faces a horrifying new crisis: on the city’s outskirts, women’s dismembered bodies are being unearthed from shallow graves. Very little links the murders, except a scattering of blue sequins and a decade’s worth of missing persons reports that correspond with major festivals.
Past and present blur as Arnav realizes he’s on the trail of a serial killer and that someone wants his investigation buried at any cost. Could the key to finding Tara and solving these murders be hidden in one of his cold cases? Or will the next body they recover be hers?
From the Publisher
“Meticulous local color matches sensitive characterizations, including of brave Mumbai police who try to overcome the deadly hazards of the corrupt system they have to work in. This searing portrait of marginalized people struggling for survival is unforgettable.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“The Blue Bar is a meticulously crafted police procedural set in Mumbai, where the setting—both the Bollywood glitz and the city’s seedy underworld—comes to life with such intensity you can almost smell the air.” —The Big Thrill
“With The Blue Bar, Damyanti Biswas has staked her claim on Mumbai as a setting for gripping crime fiction.” —BOLO Books
“The Blue Bar will assault your senses as the setting comes alive in this intricately woven mystery. It examines the gritty, corrupt politics of Mumbai as an inspector tries to solve cases of dismembered women when he doesn’t know who to trust within his own ranks. A tale of loyalty, love, and revenge, this sophomore novel by Biswas is not to be missed.” —Jaime Lynn Hendricks, author of Finding Tessa and It Could Be Anyone
“Immersive, propulsive, and beautifully written. In this gaspingly authentic police procedural about a missing dancer and the inspector who cannot forget her, Biswas transports us to India—not only to investigate a grisly and sinister series of murders but to explore the dark and disturbing life of Mumbai’s bar girls. With its heartbreaking love story and Biswas’s revealing social commentary, The Blue Bar will change you, haunt you, and have you understanding the world in a different way.” —Hank Phillippi Ryan, USA Today bestselling author of Her Perfect Life
“The Blue Bar is one of those books that tattoos itself onto your bones—the luscious language, the glorious sense of place, a mystery that draws you in deep, so deep that you forget there’s a world around you. Best of all is Inspector Arnav Singh Rajput, the tender, lionhearted man at the story’s center who will stop at nothing to see that justice is done. I’ll be thinking about this one for a long time.” —Jess Lourey, Edgar-nominated author of Unspeakable Things
“An intense, visceral thriller that…will leave you breathless!” —Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“In the mangrove swamps of Mumbai, dismembered bodies keep turning up. Damyanti Biswas lets us smell the spices and feel the sultry air in the city’s criminal underbelly as we root for detective Arnav and Tara to unmask the killer before he finds them first. Your pulse will race.” —Kristin Wright, author of The Darkest Flower and The Darkest Web
“Dive into Mumbai’s seedy underworld in this absorbing and fast-paced crime thriller. Damyanti Biswas never fails to impress with The Blue Bar. Filled with characters who will enchant you and others who’ll repulse you, action and mystery are weaved through corrupt police, Bollywood, and sultry dance bars. Don’t miss this gripping thriller!” —Rob Samborn, author of The Prisoner of Paradise and Painter of the Damned
“A hard-hitting tale full of twists, drama, murder, and mystery that kept me riveted to the very last word and set in a world you think you know, but have no idea.” —Yasmin Angoe, Editor’s Pick and bestselling author of Her Name Is Knight
“It’s almost unfair to describe Damyanti Biswas’s The Blue Bar as a page-turner—which, believe me, it is. But that was my problem—at every turn of the page I wanted to go back and re-read the lush descriptions of Indian culture and daily life, the marvelous character sketches, the intriguing settings at once familiar and foreign. This isn’t just a great thriller—it’s an immersive fictional experience by a writer at the top of her game.” —David Corbett, award-winning author of The Long-Lost Love Letters of Doc Holliday
“This Mumbai-set story is simply gripping. It’s about a detective who realizes his lover—who went missing over a decade ago wearing a blue sequined dress—might be the victim of a serial killer. I read it in one day.” —Kellye Garrett, author of Like a Sister
About the Author
Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is coeditor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Damyanti is also a supporter of Project WHY, a program that provides quality education to underprivileged children in New Delhi. Apart from being a novelist, Damyanti is an avid reader of true crime, a blogger, and an animal lover. Her ambition has always been to live in a home with more books than any other item, and she continues to work toward that. For more information, visit www.damyantiwrites.com.
- Publisher : Thomas & Mercer (Jan. 1 2023)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 396 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1662503911
- ISBN-13 : 978-1662503917
- Item weight : 386 g
- Dimensions : 13.97 x 2.54 x 20.96 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: #371,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #3,803 in International Mystery & Crime (Books)
- #9,534 in Police Procedurals (Books)
- #12,001 in Murder Thrillers
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from Canada
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As the bodies of murdered women are uncovered, the reader is given harrowing peeks into the mind of the murderer. Interwoven with these are the personal stories of bar dancer Tara and police inspector Arnav. Action scenes are humanized by elements of guilt, shame, regret, and broken trust. I was keen to find out what happened next and read the book quickly. At times it was a bit of a blur, as the characters raced from one place to another, almost always using cell phones to communicate and gather evidence.
The primary characters are well-developed and sympathetic. Enough is revealed about the secondary characters that they are distinct and memorable. I was particularly impressed by journalist (and Arnav's sometime girlfriend) Nandini, and his police colleague Tukaram. A character named Bilal is also intriguing and surprisingly sympathetic, given his relationship to the murderer.
Clues are scattered throughout the book, prompting me to formulate theories as I read about the identity of the killer. The ending includes a few shocking revelations and is both heart-wrenching and satisfying.
The first chapter was enough to captivate me and sweep me away into the muggy swamps and slums and through the crowds and the dark streets of the busiest city in India, Mumbai.
Amongst powerful elite film stars and businessmen, corrupt police officers, dangerous mafia dons, and shady government ministers, detective Arnav Singh Rajput finds himself in the middle of murder mysteries that ties the underworld, police officials, the film industry, and a strip club together. With a serial killer on the loose and cold cases coming to light, Arnav can’t help but let his mind wander to fourteen years ago when he last saw the love of his life, Tara, a young, troubled girl who worked at the strip club. She was last seen at a train station wearing a blue sequinned saree, a piece of material prominent as evidence in the recent murders Arnav is investigating.
I grew up watching Bollywood films of all genres. The Blue Bar felt like a cinematic, action and thriller-packed Indian murder mystery movie, which enhanced my reading experience to a whole new level! The vivid descriptions of criminal investigations and the underworld, the explicit settings, brilliant plotting, and character depth were written so well!
Beyond the writing lies the fleshed-out characters of Arnav and Tara. I loved young Arnav and young Tara even though with the glimpses into the past. The characters of Arnav and Tara, fourteen years later, felt like everything had changed, but their relationship and connection remained the same. I loved how they fit together so perfectly while having individual character development!
The ending felt overly fast-paced and rushed, especially after all the drama faded away, and things with the murder mystery were explained too quickly. The Blue Bar was definitely not the end of it, and despite being super excited for the sequel, I wish the ending was fleshed out and detailed more. It felt like a time jump, and certain things were skipped or ignored.
Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed The Blue Bar, and I absolutely loved the fact it had short chapters! I can’t wait to see what Damyanti Biswas comes up with in the sequel!
Thank you to the author for an ARC copy.
It is first and foremost a captivating noir mystery. It is also a provocative love story, between man and woman, between close friends, between mother and daughter. There are parallels and there are paradoxes. There are smoothly woven, subtle comparisons and then eye-blinking contrasts. It has hints of the exotic and then slaps of the downright shocking - the first in worlds some may wish to travel, and the latter in worlds most may never wish to see, but should have to. And Damyanti Biswas makes us. Because we shouldn't go through a life anywhere on this planet sticking our heads in the sand.
The ending in particular had such symbolic ironies that I found myself catching my breath. This piece of literature could be studied in any high school or university classroom, anywhere around the globe, in any language.
The Blue Bar is entertaining, educational and engrossing. I feel richer and a little more mature for having read it.
Top reviews from other countries
Thankfully once the characters are introduced properly.I'd got used to the author's writing style and the quite intricate story gets going it's gripping and entertaining stuff.
The book begins in Mumbai with Inspector Arnav Rajput at a grisly crime scene where the decapitated and dismembered corpse of a woman has been found. When Rajput finds that there have been several similar crimes going back several years and flags up his suspicions that a serial killer is on the loose he finds a whole list of people,on both sides of the law, keen to shut him up.
As well as the murder investigation the story takes in Rajput's past,part of that being former lover and Bar Dancer Tara back in Mumbai 13 years after disappearing without saying a word.
With Tara being sucked into the investigation Rajput doesn't know who to trust with rampant political, business and police corruption financed by gangsters........all of them with an interest in stopping his investigation.
There's plenty of action and an atmospheric depiction of Mumbai with it's shanty towns, street vendors,the Bollywood crowd and an underworld split on religious factions, it was almost like the book James Ellroy might have written if he set one of his books in Mumbai.
There is the occasional editorial clanger and I did initially struggle with it but was very soon gripped.
This is the first book I’ve read by this author. Initially, it was the vibrant cover and the first few pages that grabbed my attention, but when I got several chapters in, the changing POVs and the addition of several characters with similar sounding names did confuse me a bit. As you’d expect with this type of police procedural, there’s the usual storyline around police corruption and political shenanigans. I liked the central character of Arnav, although his essentially kind-hearted outlook doesn’t make up for the familiar history of challenges he faces, and it would’ve been nice to see something different. Also, the pace of the story isn’t helped by all the regular descriptions of domestic activities. While these give us an insight into the day-to-day lives of the folk involved, they do nothing to move the plot forward.
Anyway, all whining aside, the author’s descriptions of Mumbai paint a vivid picture of the city, bringing the locations and atmosphere to life.
This book follows a serial killer with a taste for cutting up women's bodies and the policeman who is trying to find him.
A Mumbai police procedural will always spend almost as much time dealing with police corruption as with trying to find the bad guy. This one follows that model.
It's a slow start. The POV of multiple characters takes a while to bed in. And there are some interesting questions around whether we should feel sympathy for an evil person who was once a victim themself.
Lots of interesting characters - not always entirely believable but interesting none the less. I enjoyed it a lot and will look out for the next in the series.
I’ve seen this referred to as Mumbai Noir and I can see why but this book is so much more than that. I loved the rich descriptions of Mumbai- the people, the locations, the chaotic world of Bollywood and felt so hungry with all the references to food.
Arnav Singh Rajput is the Detective obsessed with solving a gruesome murder that no one really wants to him solve. As with all fictional Detectives, he has his own internal conflicts.
The murder mystery is complicated by the political and celebrity landscape of Mumbai and this adds so much more complexity to the story. The corruption and the impact of this are believable, particularly how the powerful and rich can get away with the most gruesome offences ( not just in India but all over the world).
The plot races along, with no slow bits and there is plenty of action and shootouts.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes edgy thrillers set in a non-western environment and with complex and interesting characters and I can’t wait to read the next book.