The recommendation for this very good book came to me via the ever-reliable Mrs Peabody Investigates and the best review I could write would be “ditto”. But we all know I’m going to be more wordy than that.
If you are the sort of reader who likes to travel vicariously through story then A CUT-LIKE WOUND is for you. Set in present-day Bangalore the book almost literally transported me across the globe. You really do get a sense of the place…the heat, the crowds, the fascinating social mix, the sometimes odd mixture of old and new. At times I was amazed at how different the world depicted is from my own then a few pages later I would be chuckling at the similarities (it seems working in government is much the same wherever you go) but I loved it all.
I also liked all the ideas and subjects the novel explores. A major component of the story is the treatment of the hijra community (transgender people and eunuchs) within Indian society and not in a token way to give the gook an exotic flavour. The subject is looked at from several perspectives and never strayed into dogmatic territory but always fascinated. In addition the novel touches on gender politics, the role of petty corruption and, though in a minor way, the impact of immigration into India.
The crime fiction element of the novel is a bit more uneven though it too has strengths. It starts in a fairly traditional manner with several murders occurring in Bangalore being identified as connected and a somewhat haphazard investigation follows. The policemen at the centre of things represent two ends of the professional investigator spectrum I suppose: the almost-fifty Borei Gowda who’s had the stuffing figuratively knocked out of him by the system and the fresh-faced sub-inspector Santosh, newly assigned to Gowda’s team and keen to learn. In the pair’s first meeting Gowda can’t help but be struck by their differences
Gowda saw the glitter of excitement in the young man’s eyes, the fervour to do good in his stance and gait, the smooth, shaven cheeks and the precision of his movements. The innocence of the uncorrupted mind; the naivety of youth. Gowda felt a pang of regret. Once, Gowda had been that young man, seeking to protect the weak and needy, aching to scourge the world of its evils. Where had it all gone?
The juxtaposition of the two perspectives carries right through the novel and is something of a highlight. The investigation struggles for a variety of reasons including jurisdictional competition and a lack of interest in the type of victims being affected. At times comparisons are made to western (i.e. American) style investigations but these are not always in the west’s favour. Where the book does fall down a little is in its resolution, particularly the reasoning provided for the string of truly horrendous crimes. It really didn’t seem plausible to me.
A CUT-LIKE WOUND offers many of my favourite things about modern crime fiction: an evocative setting, a wry sense of humour and an exploration of intriguing aspects of our modern world. The fact that neither the crimes themselves nor the ultimate reason for their occurrence are completely credible seems almost irrelevant.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Publisher Bitter Lemon Press [This edition 2014, original edition 2012]
Length 361 pages
Book Series standalone
This work by http://reactionstoreading.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.