Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Girl Who Went Missing (Ace Varkey)

Reading crime fiction in recent years has increasingly become a form of armchair travel, and I'm all for it! It might even prompt some actual travel, although I must say that after finishing Ace Varkey's excellent debut novel The Girl Who Went Missing, I'm not at all inclined to visit its setting of Mumbai, which sounds too dangerous by half. But I'd be delighted to keep reading about the city in all its colorful and sometimes sordid complexity, especially when I'm in such capable hands as Varkey's.

Ace Varkey has lived in India, and her experience there shows. She is especially sensitive to the texture of women's experiences, both native and foreign, in a country that unfortunately does not have the best record where women's rights and dignities are concerned. In fact, this is the subject and prime mover of the narrative.

As always when reviewing a crime novel, and many other forms of fiction as well, I don't want to give too much away in terms of plot. But I can make a few indications. The title of The Girl Who Went Missing gives you some idea of where the book is headed, and is actually an understatement - quite a number of girls go missing in the course of the story. It is all about exploitation in its ugliest forms, and there are some scenes that go pretty edgy, especially an attention-getting opening sequence, although nothing quite as difficult-to-take as, say, you'll find in Derek Raymond's Factory novels (which I feel pretty confident that Varkey has read).

The novel is choral, written from multiple points-of-view - about half Indians, about half Americans in India. It "plays fair" with respect to scattering clues, and the red herrings are especially skillfully employed because they are all also thematic doublings in a Hitchcockian manner. I took notes as I was reading! Pay special attention to all references to red hair and green eyes.

I did have a few plot quibbles, but I almost always do when reading a mystery, and it is certainly nothing that got in the way of my enjoyment. I'm definitely on board for Varkey's next entry in a planned series of novels about Mumbai Police Commissioner Oscar D'Costa.

The Girl Who Went Missing

No comments:

Post a Comment