EXCERPT: She dabbed Vicks under her nose. It stung but helped fade out the stench of detergents and bleach that layered the mortuary corridor, and the butcher-shop odour lurking beneath the chemicals. That smell took her back to her childhood grocery trips with her dad on Sundays, when they chose steak for Mom,chicken or lamb for her and Dad. She might have been American but her Hindu father had insisted she not eat beef.
Right now, she must drag her Hindu-American butt through the long corridor lined with racks and drawers, and study a corpse without throwing up. Must find her way to the killer – not think about how the body had once been a living, breathing person, or how it would soon be turned into ash and charred bones.
ABOUT ‘YOU BENEATH YOUR SKIN’: It’s a dark, smog-choked new Delhi winter. Indian American single mother Anjali Morgan juggles her job as a psychiatrist with caring for her autistic teenage son. She is in a long-standing affair with ambitious police commissioner Jatin Bhatt – an irresistible attraction that could destroy both their lives.
Jatin’s home life is falling apart: his handsome and charming son is not all he appears to be, and his wife has too much on her plate to pay attention to either husband or son. But Jatin refuses to listen to anyone, not even the sister to whom he is deeply attached.
Across the city there is a crime spree: slum women found stuffed in trash bags, faces and bodies disfigured by acid. And as events spiral out of control Anjali is horrifyingly at the centre of it all …
In a sordid world of poverty, misogyny, and political corruption, Jatin must make some hard choices. But what he unearths is only the tip of the iceberg. Together with Anjali he must confront old wounds and uncover long-held secrets before it is too late.
MY THOUGHTS: I am torn by this book. It is so well written in parts, as in the extract above, but in others I almost abandoned the read. And I seriously considered abandoning it in the early chapters which are confusing with an overload of information about the characters, their backgrounds, the poverty and corruption in New Delhi. We don’t need all this information at once, it can be dribbled out during the course of the book, just like getting to know someone in real life. Initially, the bare bones are enough. It could be said that the author was setting the scene, but it seemed to me more like muddying the waters.
There are too many issues being addressed, all of them squabbling for attention. It was like trying to read in a classroom of small children all screaming ‘Pick me! Pick me!’ If the main issue is the acid attacks on women, then that should be the primary focus of the book, with just one or two other threads quietly weaving away in the background. There really is enough material in You Beneath Your Skin for at least two, if not three books.
Yet, despite my, I hope, constructive criticism, I enjoyed this read. I did so by screening out/skimming the extraneous material. This is nothing that a good editor couldn’t fix and is a measure that I strongly recommend. This is a good read. It could be a great one.
I am impressed that the author is donating the author profits from You Beneath Your Skin to charity. Half of the author proceeds of this book go to Chhanv foundation, which works to support acid attack survivors. The other half of the author proceeds go to Project WHY, which believes in the rights of all children to an education, and to a safe childhood. Through well-rounded education, it transforms communities from within. That alone makes the purchase of You Beneath Your Skin worthwhile.
‘A few years ago no one knew what a smartphone was and now . . . phones had replaced manners.’
THE AUTHOR: Damyanti Biswas is an author, blogger, animal-lover, spiritualist.
When not pottering about with her plants or her aquariums, you can find her nose deep in a book, or baking up a storm.
You Beneath Your Skin is her debut literary crime novel.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to author Damyanti Biswas for providing a digital ARC of You Beneath Your Skin for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com
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