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The search for a good Indian crime fiction series remains unsatisfied; Anita Nair’s Cut Like Wound is a messy mash of characters and styles.
Review by Unmana Datta
I am a sucker for a detective story, especially old-school ones like those by Agatha Christie or Georgette Heyer (though the one Sara Paretsky I read was pretty good too). So I jumped at the chance of reading Anita Nair’s Cut Like Wound (“introducing Inspector Gowda”), which, the blurb on the back proclaimed, is a “racy psychological thriller unlike any in Indian fiction”.
The main plot is the whodunit – men in Bangalore are being bumped off, and the serial killer seems to be a trans woman (or crossdressing man – the novel doesn’t really bother to make this clear) who thinks she’s possessed by a goddess. But there are a ton of subplots and character explorations, nearly all of them tired cliches. For example:
– The protagonist Inspector Gowda is the stereotypical honest policeman being penalized for being good at his job
– Who is also going through a stereotypical mid-life crisis, with an absent wife and a college sweetheart he gets back in touch with
– …. and a teenage son who he can’t relate to (or, the old stereotypical generation gap, with Gowda shaking his head over how his son says dude when he used to say yaar in his youth)
– Also, the aforementioned teenage son is experimenting with drugs
– A corrupt, criminal corporator
– An incompetent DCP who’s more keen on his foreign vacation than on his job
– A few eunuchs who are all stereotypes and undistinguishable from each other
The novel flitters so quickly between points of view that it’s disorienting. The author seems to think the reader needs to know the mundane thoughts of all the characters. All it does is take away from the action, since none of the characters apart from the murderer seem to have an interesting thought in their heads.
Even the grand denouement is quite predictable. Add a generous dose of transphobia and the implications that a) a child might enjoy being abused and raped and b) said abuse and rape (or enjoyment of the same – this isn’t quite clear) will turn the child into a serial killer when he grows up, and… I wish I had spent those three hours on something more productive, like an online game.
And the book didn’t clear up the real mystery: what does “cut like wound” mean? Is it an injunction to the reader or is a hyphen missing? Is a cut not a wound? So many unanswered questions.
Publishers: Harper Collins.
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