Category Archives: crime

You Beneath Your Skin – Book Review

DB2

DB5Though this is Damyanti Biswas’s debut novel, it would be a mistake to give the impression of her being a new or ‘debut’ writer. In addition to this first book, Damyanti Biswas is a highly successful and respected blogger, and having read many of her posts and short/flash fiction pieces, one I have followed for many years and patiently waited in the hope she would someday write a full-length novel. Further information about the author and social media/contact links follow my review.

I can finally confirm my patience has been well-rewarded: My review of …

(click on Review heading for Goodreads link to review)

You Beneath Your Skin

5starssgs (1)

As rich in characterisation and atmosphere as any book I’ve EVER read …                    Simply Superb!

DB3The story centres around Anjali, an Indian woman with an American born mother and an autistic son, Nikhil, and Jatin, her married Delhi policeman and on/off lover. Nikhil and their personal lives aside, Anjali and Jatin are involved in the investigation of a new spate of serial murders, rapes, and vicious attacks on poor young women in Deli. Parallel to this, Anjali also volunteers in various other roles to help the poor and underprivileged of Delhi, especially the children. Set against the backdrop of their friends, colleagues, and relations, and all the social and cultural problems that beset Delhi, there are innumerable minor storylines, from tentative romance, drug dealing,  to family secrets and eventual revelations as brutal, horrific, and surprising as is possible to imagine

If one were to rely solely on the Amazon book description, a reader might be drawn into thinking the central premise of the book is a series of brutal attacks and murders of vulnerable women, and the subsequent efforts to bring those responsible to justice. Really though, ‘You Beneath Your Skin’ is so much more than a simple detective or police investigation; yes, the brutal attacks/murders, i.e. drugging women before raping/murdering them, and/or throwing acid in their faces form an integral part of the story, but it’s far from being what the book is really about. Whereas in a more, say, ‘traditional’ crime and murder story, such violence would be at its heart, perhaps for its shock value or to emphasise the need for a resolution to the crimes. In truth, the actual violence here is little more than a backdrop to the rich characterisation of everyone involved, and of the lives and society in which the multiple storylines take place; if anything, the real violence here, and indeed tragedy, is the fact that the murders and attacks are downplayed to some extent, a reflection of the equal or even greater horror that such acid attacks and the like are so commonplace they’ve become an accepted part of Indian culture/society in much the same way mass shootings in America or European terrorist attacks no longer shock or surprise us they way they once did. 

The writing is executed to perfection, with every character vividly brought to life through their likes and prejudices, their interactions with each other, their place in Indian society, and in way too many other subtle ways to mention in a single review. I was pleased to see the author in no way tried to pander or adapt her writing to accommodate the expectations of a western or European audience, which in my opinion makes for a better reading experience for anyone who reads this book. Having said that, some of the dialogue does, albeit only occasionally, switch to Hindi, which as a European reader, I obviously skimmed past. Also, it will take some readers a little while to get used to some of the Indian conventions of speech and dialogue, i.e. of people being addressed in different ways, and by different names/titles depending on the relationship between whose speaking (some parallels can be found in German, in the way you might address a child or someone you know personally or only a little).

It’s still difficult for me to appreciate this a debut novel rather than maybe the umpteenth from a well-established and best-selling author. As well as being a well-crafted tale of the most horrific crimes, their investigation, and a somewhat cynical conclusion, it’s also a brutally honest and illuminating look at and commentary on Indian society, both good and bad. Captivating, enthralling, and a real page-turner – a superb work of crime and social literature!

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Editorial & peer reviews:

DB4‘Biswas’s masterful You Beneath Your Skin is an intelligent page-turner that mixes a thrilling murder case with a profound psychological and sociological study of contemporary India.’ – David Corbett, award-winning author of The Art of Character

 ‘You Beneath Your Skin is a gripping tale of murder, corruption and power and their terrifying effects in New Delhi. Highly recommended.’ – Alice Clark-Platts, bestselling author of The Flower Girls

‘Suspenseful and sensitive, with characters negotiating serious issues of society, this crime novel will keep you awake at night!’ – Jo Furniss, bestselling author of All the Little Children and The Trailing Spouse

‘Gripping…crime fiction with a difference. This is a novel full of layers and depth, focusing on class and corruption in India with compassion and complexity.’ – Sanjida Kay, Author of psychological thrillers, Bone by Bone, The Stolen Child, My Mother’s Secret and One Year Later

‘You Beneath Your Skin – beautiful writing, strong characters and a story that will stay with me for a long time. Set in New Delhi, this novel tackles important issues as well as providing a tension-filled read.’- Jacqueline Ward, Bestselling author of Perfect Ten

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More about the author:

DB6Damyanti Biswas lives in Singapore and works with Delhi’s underprivileged children as part of Project Why, a charity that promotes education and social enhancement in underprivileged communities. Her short stories have been published in magazines in the US, UK, and Asia, and she helps edit the Forge Literary Magazine. You can find her on her blog and twitter.

See also: Facebook – Damyanti at Daily Write

All the author proceeds will go to Project WHY and Stop Acid Attacks.

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           Other social media and site links:

  1. Link to Project WHY: https://projectwhy.org/
  2. Link to Chhanv Foundation: https://www.chhanv.org/  (Their social media name is StopAcidAttacks)
  3. Author website: https://www.damyantiwrites.com/
  4. Pls use the hashtag: #YouBeneathYourSkin for all social media shares

Check out #YouBeneathYourSkin by @damyantig @SimonSchusterIN, a #crime novel that raises many social issues.

All author proceeds go to: @stopacidattacks @projectwhydelhi

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Amazon purchase links:

US:  Click HERE

UK: Click HERE

India: HERE

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To get RTs and shares, pls tag:

 @SimonandSchusterIN @projectwhydelhi @stopacidattacks @damyantig on Instagram

  @SimonSchusterIN @projectwhydelhi @stopacidattacks @damyantig on Twitter

 

Cell Bitch – Flash fiction short story

Another little taster from my up-coming under 1000 word flash fiction stories, Flashbulb Moments …

 

Cell Bitch

 

Luke Thompson was as nice a young man as you could ever hope to meet, the sort of boy parents hoped their daughter would bring home to meet them. In Luke’s case though, it was correctional officer Vince Zackery introducing Luke to his parents. It was okay though; Vince’s parents took to Luke the moment they met him. And likewise, when Luke introduced Vince to his own family, they were delighted Luke had found himself a boyfriend who obviously adored him, and given Vince’s 6’3” height and build, one they knew he’d be in safe hands with.

It was an unlikely pairing; they’d met and fell in love during Luke’s monthly visits to his older brother serving a seventy-five-year sentence for armed robbery at the penitentiary where Vince was an officer.

 

Luke was attending a staff Christmas dinner and dance night. He had thought about not going what with Vince working nights, but Vince had told him to go and enjoy himself, and besides, Luke would have felt guilty letting Kathryn down. Being a popular guy, Luke had no shortage of girls happy to dance with him, which was more than could be said for Nathan Morrison. Nathan was your stereotypical homophobic racist, and a jealous one to boot, given that the girl he fancied, Kathryn, was more interested in limp-wristed Luke, as Nathan called him. Luke and Kathryn were best friends in a brother and sister sort of way. All night the girl whose knickers Nathan wanted to get into had spurned him, preferring to chat and dance … with some nancy boy … instead. Afterwards, Luke and Kathryn left together, Luke insisting on walking her the half-mile to her house.

cell7Along with two of his knuckle-dragging mates, Nathan followed at a discreet distance before taking a shortcut in readiness to confront the pair …

 

“So, what’s girly little Luke got that I ain’t?” Nathan demanded to know as he stepped out from the shadows.

“Maybe she’s a dyke and reckons on Luke providing some girl on girl action,” one of the other Neanderthals suggested. Had it just been Nathan on his own, Luke would have taken his chances and struck out at him, but he had Kathryn to consider, and was fearful of what they might do to her if he angered them in any way? In that respect, he needn’t have worried; the three Neanderthals had no intention of raping or hurting Kathryn, knowing full-well what the consequences of that might be. But Luke was another matter – they figured he’d be too ashamed to complain given just what they had in mind for him, and even if he did, they’d say he tried to touch one of them up, that they were fearful of his homosexual advances … sadly, it was a defence that was often successful in some of the ‘less than liberal’ states of America.

Nathan and another of the trio slammed Luke up against the wall, unbuckling his pants at the same time, while the third one kept hold of Kathryn, making her watch. Nathan then produced a bicycle pump he’d stolen from a bike while following them.

“I bet this is what you want, I mean, a hole’s a hole, and you want it, don’t ya?” Nathan whispered, “and if ya scream out, ya little girlfriend here will be getting the real thing from all three of us,” he added, knowing Luke wouldn’t do anything to jeopardise Kathryn’s safety.

 

Nathan had been right in assuming they wouldn’t report the assault, though not because Luke was ashamed. Luke was worried what the others might do to Kathryn if Nathan went to prison. Nonetheless, Kathryn pleaded with Luke to go to the police, but ultimately, she respected his wishes not to.

*

cell2.jpgA month later, Nathan was convicted of a similar assault against a young girl. Hearing the news, Kathryn finally told her father, who just happened to be the judge trying Nathan’s case, what had happened. She also told Luke’s partner, correctional officer, Vince Zackery … 

Nathan Morrison entered the three-man cell somewhat nervously to begin the first day of his ten-year prison sentence for sexual assault. He nodded to the two man-mountain sized figures looking across at him from their bunks, one from a single bed, and the other the lower one of a set of bunk beds.

 

cell5“What’s ya name, boy?” asked one of them while the other returned to flipping the pages of his porn mag.

“It’s Na … Nathan … Nathan Morrison,” he finally managed to blurt out.

“Well young … Nathan … your pit will be on the top bunk above me, though most of the time you’ll down here keeping me happy … oh, and it’ll be me on top.”

“Don’t be greedy, Jim, there’s more ‘n’ enough of that sweet little ass ta go around.” The two cellmates both laughed. Unsurprisingly, Nathan didn’t see the funny side of the crude interjection.

“Too sweet an ass t’be called ‘Nathan,’ that’s for sure … I think we’ll call him Natalie instead.”

“Look guys, I mean …” Nathan began, “I’m … I’m not gay or anything, not that I got owt against anyone who is or anything …”

“Neither are we, but unless you’re hiding a pair of tits and a pussy under that jumpsuit, you’re all we’ve got … and besides, what was it you said … A hole’s a hole?” Nathan didn’t know what to say, too terrified to even notice the flow of urine soaking the front of his prisoner jumpsuit.

cell3“Luke Thompson’s my kid brother … and if you’re thinking of yelling out to the guards, ya know that mean looking muthafucka of an officer that’s in charge of out wing, his name’s Vince,” Jim revealed, brandishing an officer’s nightstick in a somewhat obscene manner before adding: “… and he’s Luke’s partner.”

It was going to be a long ten years was all Nathan could think … that’s if he even survived the night?

cell1

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If you enjoyed this story and would like to read many more like it, please stay tuned for my up-coming anthology later this year, with guest stories from an additional six authors (3 more still to be confirmed)

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