I generally like my mysteries cosy, ideally with tea and a side of scones.
The latest book by Anita Nair is a gritty crime thriller set in Bangalore. It chronicles a murder spree, lasting one month and eight days, using glass dust coated thread as ligature – a cunning contraption that strangles even as it cuts.
Set in the underbelly of the city, home to the despised and displaced, transsexuals and transvestites, corrupt corporators and counterfeiters, and trips to the crime scene and autopsy table, there is nothing remotely cosy about this book.
Even then I enjoyed it.
Having read two of her previous novels (Ladies Coupe and Mistress), I got exactly what I was expecting and some more. Intense and earthy colours stain her stories and Cut Like Wound was no exception. If anything, the fact that it is a foray into the realm of crime, intensifies the rawness.
She also draws effortlessly from the wonder trove of Indian myths and seamlessly weaves them into the fabric of an urban tale. This particular story happens in the holy month of Ramadan, draws from the Hindu rituals of goddess worship and the climax is set during the annual feast and procession at St. Mary’s Basilica.
The minor gripe I had with the previous novels is that somehow the motivations that pulled the characters along seemed a little tenuous or a little too common. I say minor because in the larger scheme of a well told story, the ‘whys’ tend to pale in significance. But in Cut Like Wound, even that gripe has been addressed.
At the end of the day what stays with me is the character that is Inspector Borei Gowda. Bitter like good coffee, bike lover, rum downer, disillusioned and middle aged, a shadow of the hunk and star he was, father, husband, lover, reluctant mentor. His shoulders are broad enough and tattooed arm hip enough to carry a crime series, and if rumors are to be believed this is the first of hopefully many.
I am ready for a desi P.D. James, and for me, Gowda would beat Dalgliesh any day.