Louise Barbour (Fundy Blue)
5.0 out of 5 stars
A Gripping, Beautifully Written, Literary Noir
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on February 2, 2023
This thriller kept me guessing from beginning to end as I raced through it in in a few late and bleary-eyed nights. What's not to love in this intense and literary noir ~ the twisting, surprising plot, the compelling characters, the gorgeous tight writing, or the gritty underworld and glittering aristocracy of Mumbai?
The twisting, surprising plot:
As Police Inspector Arnav Singh Rajput races to a grisly crime scene, he has no idea that this new case will upend his life. A horrific serial killer is responsible for decapitating and dismembering women, and Arnav can't keep away from cases of missing or dead women. Arnav is haunted by the disappearance of Tara Mondal fourteen years ago, the mysterious girl-woman he loved who danced to Bollywood songs in the smoky, flashing, colored lights of The Blue Bar.
Not only must Arnav hunt for an elusive killer, but he must also navigate the ambitions, politics, and corruption of the leaders of the Mumbai police and Mumbai society. Someone will go to any length to sink his investigation.
Just when I thought I had something figured out, an unexpected twist would flummox me.
The compelling characters:
The characters in Damyanti's novel don't let you go. She weaves a story that is both an authentic police procedural and an unpredictable romance.
Arnav is dogged in his quest to find the killer, a creepy gruesome slayer with a murderous obsession, before Tara becomes the next headless, handless, footless woman buried in muck with a scattering of blue sequins.
Tara has a life-changing secret, someone she must protect with her very life. She risks returning to Mumbai and the Blue Bar as an instructor and performer in an attempt to secure her financial future and realize her goals.
This a sampling of the unforgettable characters who inhabit Damyanti's book:
Bilal, a loyal family servant who cleans up the bloody messes and arranges for the disposal of the bodies by an underworld Bhai or gang boss,
The wildly successful Virani brothers, Bollywood heartthrobs
who have captivated India's impressionable young women for years,
The unflappable Dr. Meshram, the coroner who will use his own time and money
to autopsy the brutalized bodies of the unknown and forgotten,
Sita Naik, Arnav's tireless assistant, a smart and professional assistant sub-inspector who will do anything to help Arnav solve the case,
And Rahul Taneja, a ruthless real estate tycoon famous for his fabulous wealth and lavish parties.
The gorgeous tight writing:
I already knew that Damyanti was an excellent writer, because I had read her chilling debut novel You Beneath Your Skin. Her writing is fresh, evocative, and eloquent, seemingly effortless. But Damyanti is a writer who admits that for her, writing is a slog. She progresses slowly, word by word, on her computer through multiple drafts and revisions, but she writes because she must.
The gritty underworld and glittering aristocracy of Mumbai:
To a Canadian American like me, Mumbai is exotic. But Damyanti's ability to bring Mumbai alive is engrossing. Before long, I forgot about exotic Mumbai, as I was drawn into this kaleidoscopic city.
Damyanti constructs a Mumbai that is so absorbing you are there, period. The novel opens at rush hour in Borivali Railway Station, swarming with jostling noisy people, and the book transports readers to Mumbai's hectic nightlife, to its stinky marshland and mangroves, to sultry Madh Island on the magnificent Arabian Sea, to its crowded beaches, busy police stations, and dangerous alleys. It is unforgettable!
I highly recommend this gripping mystery, The Blue Bar, which I suggest you quickly follow up with You Beneath Your Skin. Inspector Arnav returns in the sequel to The Blue Bar to tackle the hair industry, caste, and castration in Mumbai. “The Blue Monsoon” will be released on October 24, 2023.
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