It’s the first day of Ramadan in heat-soaked Bangalore. A young man begins to dress: makeup, a sari, and expensive pearl earrings. Before the mirror he is transformed into Bhuvana. She is a hijra, a transgender seeking love in the bazaars of the city.
What Bhuvana wants, she nearly gets: a passing man is attracted to this elusive young woman—but someone points out that Bhuvana is no woman. For that, the interloper’s throat is cut. A case for Inspector Borei Gowda, going to seed, and at odds with those around him including his wife, his colleagues, even the informers he must deal with. More corpses and Urmila, Gowda’s ex-flame, are added to this spicy concoction of a mystery novel.
Most intriguing is the grim world of Bhuvana. Her hijra fantasies, emotions, and hopes are etched in a way that is chilling yet oddly touching. Some mysteries remain till almost the end, for instance Bhuvana’s connection with the wealthy, corrupt Corporator Ravikumar, who lives in a mansion as grand as the Mysore Palace and controls whole districts of Bangalore.
I have read a lot of thrillers over the last few years and was starting to feel a little jaded! I needed something that felt different, had an exotic hint to it and then came along A Cut Like Wound!
Set in the heat-soaked streets of Bangalore it it features a host of transgender characters, eunuchs, jaded police officers and a mystery around the death of a group of unrelated men. It’s all this combined that marked it out for me, making it feel sultry and unfamiliar. It was almost beguiling in the way the story was infused with an exotic mixture of characters and landscape, creating a backdrop from which the story was able to wrap itself around my imagination. Set so far away from my own reality, it lured me in and held me tight, buffeted from the world around me.
Finding a transgender character in any murder mystery is rare, too rare! So Bhuvana was a delight to me and I hope will be to many other readers. Seductive, deeply damaged and with a mind fractured by events buried deep in her past. You know as a reader that her actions are wrong, but the writer makes her feel so deeply wounded and you can’t help feel oddly touched by her duel personalities, which fluctuate like waves throughout the text. I know this sounds wrong, but I wanted her to find peace and love. The writer makes it clear from the beginning her involvement with the killings, the mystery coming from the identity of her alter ego and how Inspector Borei Gowda and his associates bring them to justice.
Now I admit I do find thrillers that use jaded, worn down Policemen as the protagonist a little too predictable, but given the setting it fits, because female police are a minority and only a tiny percentage hold supervisory positions. Realism and authenticity required Gowda to be male and he carries his tortured, worn out air of unfulfillment well. Writer Anita Nair making me sympathise with his dissatisfaction with his life. We can all identify with this jaded, frustrated, intelligent man, who just wants to stop a killer, but finds his attempts foiled by corruption and bureaucracy. He was by the end of the novel one of my favourite police officers and that is saying something, given the number of thrillers I’ve read.
It felt odd wanting the killer to escape justice and yet at the same time wanting the police officer to also bring their reign of terror to an end! But the writer created in me this unsettling feeling of conflicted loyalties and I really liked it. Exotic and intoxicating A Cut Wound by Anita Nair is the start of what I hope is a new series of thrillers to come.
You can purchaser this novel from Amazon
About the author
Anita Nair lives in Bangalore and is a prize-winning author. Her novel Ladies Coupe, published in the United States by St. Martin’s Press, is a feminist classic which has been translated in thirty languages all over the world. This is her first crime novel.
You can follow the author on Twitter @anitanairauthor