cover image The Blue Bar

The Blue Bar

Damyanti Biswas. Thomas & Mercer, $15.95 trade paper (402p) ISBN 978-1-6625-0391-7

At the start of this exceptional crime thriller from Biswas (You Beneath Your Skin), 17-year-old bar dancer Tara Mondal, who was sold into prostitution by her father at 13, enters a crowded Mumbai train station one afternoon in 2002, wearing a sari with blue sequins. Her boss, who has given her this odd assignment before, has never explained why he pays her “nearly as much for each of these weird trips to the railway station as she made in a month dancing to lewd Bollywood numbers.” This time Tara disappears. In the present, Insp. Arnav Singh Rajput of the Mumbai police, who was once Tara’s lover, investigates a series of murders in which the female victims were all decapitated and dismembered; blue sequins were found on or near the bodies. Arnav’s search for a serial killer intersects with his efforts to find Tara. Meticulous local color matches sensitive characterizations, including of brave Mumbai police who try to overcome the deadly hazards of the corrupt system they have to work in. This searing portrait of marginalized people struggling for survival is unforgettable. Agent: Lucienne Diver, Knight Agency. (Jan.)