Monday, June 23, 2014

Anita Nair - Cut Like Wound

Why aren't there more Bangalore books in this world? There's more to Bangalore than IT and traffic, you know. There are so many communities waiting to be explored - the Muslims who were part of Tipu Sultan's army, the Tamils who migrated when the British set up an army base here, the real estate mafia that springs up in any rapidly expanding city. There's so much waiting to be written about, and nobody's doing it. Everybody turns their noses up at poor old Bangalore.

Anita Nair didn't set out to write a Bangalore book. She just wanted to a write a nice dark meaty detective novel. But along the way, she manages to throw light on the dark steamy underbelly of Bangalore - an underbelly that middle-class citizens like me would have never known existed. Transvestites, corrupt corporators, gone-to-seed policemen, male prostitutes, young men hungry for sex - these are some of the people Nair chooses to populate her novel with.

A serial murderer is loose in Bangalore. A murderer who has sex with men and then strangles them with a manja thread (which is apparently a normal thread coated with glass particles). From the seedy by-lanes of Shivaji Nagar to the still-underpopulated places in Hennur and Nagawara, the bodies pile up, and it's up to Inspector Borei Gowda to figure the whole thing out (though nobody wants him to).

Gowda is a policeman in his forties whose career has gone to the dogs because he knows he's more intelligent and honest than his superiors (and doesn't have the tact to hide it). Gowda is a brilliant creation. He has a wife who doesn't want to stay with him, a son he doesn't feel connected to, and an old college sweetheart who's back in his life. Add to that an alcohol problem and the worshipful admiration of younger colleagues, and you have an interesting mix. Blasphemous as it may sound, I would put him right up there with the likes of Commander Adam Dalgliesh and Inspector Rebus in terms of complexity of character (for a detective, that is).

Nair's Bangalore is mostly restricted to Shivaji Nagar and the north-eastern parts of Bangalore - Banaswadi, Hennur, Nagawara. Lending local colour are things like the Infant Jesus festival, famous old Bangalore cafes, and of course the newer places like UB City.

The cover says Introducing Inspector Gowda. I hope Nair is planning to write a sequel (a whole series would be even better), because she's got a good thing going here.
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