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“When I was first assigned this book to read and write about, it seemed like a rather daunting task. A 900-page novel about cops and criminals in the Indian underworld? That seems like something that couldn’t possibly hold my interest. Boy, was I wrong.
This book has the heft and the beauty of Don DeLillo’s Underworld along with the readability and obsessive sexuality of Michael Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White. This is what literature feels like. Vikram Chandra’s tour de force novel does for present-day Mumbai what James Joyce’s Ulysses did for Dublin. It is a thriller filled with startling beauty, complex characters, and stories within stories that intersect with Dickensian coincidences and connections. And did I mention at its core is a plot to start a nuclear war between India and Pakistan?
At the center of the novel is Sartaj Singh, a detective in Mumbai. He’s a good cop when it comes to solving crimes but not so skillful when it comes to soliciting bribes (something his fellow comrades have become all too accomplished at doing). His partner is Constable Katekar, a fundamentally decent man who can be less than faithful to his wife. They are your guides into a seedy underworld of whores, crime lords, spies, and murder. This is a world that, even if you’re lucky enough to travel to India, you’ll never see. But thanks to this ambitious and powerful novel, you’ll feel like you were a part of it all. And isn’t that what great writing is supposed to do?”—Michael Phillips
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