Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Book Review: Murder in Mumbai by K.D. Calamur

Murder in Mumbai is one of those special novels that open the eyes of the reader to the truths of the East, and, in this case in particular, India.

The author, who grew up there, seems to have a love and hate relationship not with his country, but with the city where the action of this book takes place:

“Anyone who’s lived in Mumbai will understand this: You love it; you hate it; you loathe it; you embrace it.”

Well, the two main characters here, Inspector Vijay Gaikwad and journalist Jay Ganesh, seem to share these feelings. They love their city, but they hate its wealth and its poverty, the never-ending traffic jams, the way that the system operates and the fact that no two people are the same under the sun.

For instance, we learn, that if a foreigner or a rich man gets murdered there’s an outcry in the press and the politicians lean heavily on the shoulders of the cops and want instant results, while if a poor man is killed he hardly gets a mention in the broadsheets or the radio.

The victim in this case is not only rich, but a foreigner as well. Her name is Liz Barton and she’s the CEO of a mining company. Who killed her and why? The truth is that she did have a lot of enemies: an environmentalist, a man who’s been left behind in order for her to take the position that was meant for him in the company, a husband who’s unhappy and unfaithful, and probably an opponent from some other company.

Gaikwad is ordered to investigate the case, but in order to do that maybe he just has to cut a deal with the devil. Who’s that? None other than Jay Ganesh. Gaiwad doesn’t like journalists, but he does seem to tolerate Ganesh since the man has more than a little integrity; while Ganesh, even though he has some informers in the force, doesn’t seem to be very fond of cops, but he gives credit to Gaiwad for being honest and not on the take, unlike many others.

Thus the two of them agree to conduct their separate investigations and if something turns up to inform each other.

But investigating a murder case is just not enough for Ganesh, who’s been let go from his previous post in a newspaper for pointing his arrows towards the city’s rich, corrupt and mighty. So at the same time, he continues to look into a series of burglaries that took place in the past few weeks in rich neighborhoods. The perpetrators seemed to be way too smart for the authorities to handle, but maybe he can take them on all by himself.

As the story continues and the plot unfolds and spreads in different directions the author never misses a chance to talk about what’s happening in the city: the new found wealth, the non-stop ancient poverty, the plights of the common people and the excesses of the rich. He takes us into slums and palaces, into shacks and dazzling skyscrapers, he shows us the big grim picture that’s hidden behind the small grand one.

His heroes are ordinary people, who try to lead ordinary lives, while at the same time working hard in order to make a difference in the lives of others. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. The most important thing is though that they never give up hope.

This is a great novel that I would not only recommend to the fans of crime fiction but also to anyone who’s interested in learning some things about this new and exciting world of ours, as well to those that really enjoy to read a good story that has a lot to say.

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