Anita Nair’s excellent new novel is something of a departure from her previous books, with their nuanced, intricate examinations of relationships and social status. Set during Ramadan in the steamy heat of Bangalore, A Cut-like Wound takes the form of a police procedural, with detectives tracking a serial killer through the teeming streets and seedy back alleys of the city. Our hero – if that is the word – is Inspector Borei Gowda, a splendidly grumpy, hard-drinking, deeply flawed character whose chaotic home life includes an absent wife, an estranged son and an enigmatic mistress. Despite his brilliant detective work, Gowda’s disdain for authority has led to a posting in a backwater district of Bangalore. He is roused from his apathetic torpor by a series of grisly murders on his patch; seemingly unrelated men whose throats have been cut with a manja – a glass-coated kite string. The author’s hypnotic writing plunges us into world at once deeply conservative and daringly transgressive; we are presented with policemen perennially at odds with their own organization, local politicians who mix corruption with paternalistic altruism, and transgendered sex-workers in search of affection and tenderness. Anita Nair has successfully leavened the standard mystery novel with her own brand of character-driven narrative and, if the denouement seems a trifle rushed, this is a minor flaw in a novel that otherwise has much to admire.

New Internationalist

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