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You Beneath Your Skin – Book Review

DB2

DB5Though this is Damyanti Biswas’s debut novel, it would be a mistake to give the impression of her being a new or ‘debut’ writer. In addition to this first book, Damyanti Biswas is a highly successful and respected blogger, and having read many of her posts and short/flash fiction pieces, one I have followed for many years and patiently waited in the hope she would someday write a full-length novel. Further information about the author and social media/contact links follow my review.

I can finally confirm my patience has been well-rewarded: My review of …

(click on Review heading for Goodreads link to review)

You Beneath Your Skin

5starssgs (1)

As rich in characterisation and atmosphere as any book I’ve EVER read …                    Simply Superb!

DB3The story centres around Anjali, an Indian woman with an American born mother and an autistic son, Nikhil, and Jatin, her married Delhi policeman and on/off lover. Nikhil and their personal lives aside, Anjali and Jatin are involved in the investigation of a new spate of serial murders, rapes, and vicious attacks on poor young women in Deli. Parallel to this, Anjali also volunteers in various other roles to help the poor and underprivileged of Delhi, especially the children. Set against the backdrop of their friends, colleagues, and relations, and all the social and cultural problems that beset Delhi, there are innumerable minor storylines, from tentative romance, drug dealing,  to family secrets and eventual revelations as brutal, horrific, and surprising as is possible to imagine

If one were to rely solely on the Amazon book description, a reader might be drawn into thinking the central premise of the book is a series of brutal attacks and murders of vulnerable women, and the subsequent efforts to bring those responsible to justice. Really though, ‘You Beneath Your Skin’ is so much more than a simple detective or police investigation; yes, the brutal attacks/murders, i.e. drugging women before raping/murdering them, and/or throwing acid in their faces form an integral part of the story, but it’s far from being what the book is really about. Whereas in a more, say, ‘traditional’ crime and murder story, such violence would be at its heart, perhaps for its shock value or to emphasise the need for a resolution to the crimes. In truth, the actual violence here is little more than a backdrop to the rich characterisation of everyone involved, and of the lives and society in which the multiple storylines take place; if anything, the real violence here, and indeed tragedy, is the fact that the murders and attacks are downplayed to some extent, a reflection of the equal or even greater horror that such acid attacks and the like are so commonplace they’ve become an accepted part of Indian culture/society in much the same way mass shootings in America or European terrorist attacks no longer shock or surprise us they way they once did. 

The writing is executed to perfection, with every character vividly brought to life through their likes and prejudices, their interactions with each other, their place in Indian society, and in way too many other subtle ways to mention in a single review. I was pleased to see the author in no way tried to pander or adapt her writing to accommodate the expectations of a western or European audience, which in my opinion makes for a better reading experience for anyone who reads this book. Having said that, some of the dialogue does, albeit only occasionally, switch to Hindi, which as a European reader, I obviously skimmed past. Also, it will take some readers a little while to get used to some of the Indian conventions of speech and dialogue, i.e. of people being addressed in different ways, and by different names/titles depending on the relationship between whose speaking (some parallels can be found in German, in the way you might address a child or someone you know personally or only a little).

It’s still difficult for me to appreciate this a debut novel rather than maybe the umpteenth from a well-established and best-selling author. As well as being a well-crafted tale of the most horrific crimes, their investigation, and a somewhat cynical conclusion, it’s also a brutally honest and illuminating look at and commentary on Indian society, both good and bad. Captivating, enthralling, and a real page-turner – a superb work of crime and social literature!

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Editorial & peer reviews:

DB4‘Biswas’s masterful You Beneath Your Skin is an intelligent page-turner that mixes a thrilling murder case with a profound psychological and sociological study of contemporary India.’ – David Corbett, award-winning author of The Art of Character

 ‘You Beneath Your Skin is a gripping tale of murder, corruption and power and their terrifying effects in New Delhi. Highly recommended.’ – Alice Clark-Platts, bestselling author of The Flower Girls

‘Suspenseful and sensitive, with characters negotiating serious issues of society, this crime novel will keep you awake at night!’ – Jo Furniss, bestselling author of All the Little Children and The Trailing Spouse

‘Gripping…crime fiction with a difference. This is a novel full of layers and depth, focusing on class and corruption in India with compassion and complexity.’ – Sanjida Kay, Author of psychological thrillers, Bone by Bone, The Stolen Child, My Mother’s Secret and One Year Later

‘You Beneath Your Skin – beautiful writing, strong characters and a story that will stay with me for a long time. Set in New Delhi, this novel tackles important issues as well as providing a tension-filled read.’- Jacqueline Ward, Bestselling author of Perfect Ten

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More about the author:

DB6Damyanti Biswas lives in Singapore and works with Delhi’s underprivileged children as part of Project Why, a charity that promotes education and social enhancement in underprivileged communities. Her short stories have been published in magazines in the US, UK, and Asia, and she helps edit the Forge Literary Magazine. You can find her on her blog and twitter.

See also: Facebook – Damyanti at Daily Write

All the author proceeds will go to Project WHY and Stop Acid Attacks.

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           Other social media and site links:

  1. Link to Project WHY: https://projectwhy.org/
  2. Link to Chhanv Foundation: https://www.chhanv.org/  (Their social media name is StopAcidAttacks)
  3. Author website: https://www.damyantiwrites.com/
  4. Pls use the hashtag: #YouBeneathYourSkin for all social media shares

Check out #YouBeneathYourSkin by @damyantig @SimonSchusterIN, a #crime novel that raises many social issues.

All author proceeds go to: @stopacidattacks @projectwhydelhi

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Amazon purchase links:

US:  Click HERE

UK: Click HERE

India: HERE

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To get RTs and shares, pls tag:

 @SimonandSchusterIN @projectwhydelhi @stopacidattacks @damyantig on Instagram

  @SimonSchusterIN @projectwhydelhi @stopacidattacks @damyantig on Twitter

 

The Hunter – Flash Fiction no:6 (of 100)

IASDpicAnother Flash Fiction short story, under 700 words this time. I’ve been inspired to look again at some of my past abandoned stories following a recent flash fiction challenge in the IASD writing group. Along with compiling many different stories from the group for an IASD anthology in the near future (news of which to be featured in a forthcoming blog post), I hope to publish my own collection of flash fiction too.

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The Hunter

Jeez, I love what I do! It’s no mean boast, but I’m probably the best in the world. I’ve a room back home full of trophies and awards. A few years ago, I shot the last white rhino. Before that, I was the first to bag one of the few white tigers to have successfully survived in the wilds of the Indian jungles. To do what I do requires all the stealth and cunning of the wild animals I track. Only my peers and contemporaries can ever truly understand the thrill, the adrenalin rush, that sense of achievement that comes after days, weeks, and even months of tracking and stalking your prey until you finally corner it into position.

My latest quest is the most ambitious yet. Rumours of its existence have been floating liger2around the net for years. The biggest liger ever seen, or so the locals say. Yes, that’s right, a cross between an Asiatic lion from the Gir forest in India, and a Bengal tiger.

No one knows quite how this wild liger came about. Tigers are jungle cats while lions are found on the plains. But India has both, so it’s not impossible.

liger1It’s started attacking domestic livestock from the outlying villages surrounding the forest. That’s how its existence has been confirmed.

With the intimidating size and strength genes of a tiger and the ferocious fighting skills of a lion, it’s a truly magnificent beast. It’s reportedly 12 feet tall on its hind legs and possibly 1000 lbs in weight – heavier and taller even than Hercules, officially the biggest cat in the world. It could be the crowning achievement of my career. I’m determined to have it!

After my arrival at Keshod airport, it was still another 3-hour drive to the area just beyond the southern outskirts of the Gir forest where the liger was last seen.

After a few days’ preparation, I begin my hunt. It was last spotted nearby in the Gir National Park, probably in the hope of mating with one of the Asiatic lionesses, so that’s where I start.

Possessing twice the size and strength of a regular lion, it’s difficult to imagine any of the alpha males fighting off the intruder to the resident Prides.

Three days I lie in wait, shrouded in natural camouflage, smeared with the local vegetation and scent of the plains. The Park authorities are aiding me in my quest, appreciative of the publicity my success would bring to their tourist business.

It’s a dangerous spot. Being the only sanctuary in the world for the Asiatic lion, there are lots of them about. These are no tame, domesticated varieties you might find in a city zoo.

ligers4Sanctuary or not, these are dangerous wild animals that hunt, kill, and rend their prey limb from limb to satisfy theirs and their cubs’ hunger; human flesh would be a more than acceptable alternative to their more usual diet of zebras and giraffes.

I remain aware of the danger. But from years’ experience, I know how to protect myself. I focus instead on the job in hand. I finally spot my prey. I’m staggered by the size of it, even from two hundred yards away. It’s like some monster from the id, more like an image of a prehistoric Sabre Tooth than a modern-day hybrid.

liger3He’s in the cross-hairs of my telescopic sight now. A headshot I decide. I take aim. I’m hoping it will turn to face me. To capture that glint in its eyes, that moment of recognition between the man and beast, there’s no other feeling quite like it.

Turn will you, turn, I urge silently. He does. He’s magnificent. He’s mine!

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‘Best photo of the year,’ said the New York Times.

‘Simply Superb’ was the verdict of the Association of Professional Wildlife Photographers’

And my favourite – ‘Another breathtaking glimpse at the majesty of nature, from Nature Magazine.’

Jeez, I love my job!

ligers5

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