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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

 

More Longer Wacky Stories with Twist Endings – Book Review

jmw9

jmwThis latest short story collection is the fifth by John M. W. Smith that it’s been my pleasure to read and review. John M.W. Smith has had many stories published in various women’s weekly magazines and literary journals, and his short story collections are an established favourite among Russian readers where as well as being hugely popular, are also used as an English language teaching aid.  

In addition to my review here of ‘More Longer Wacky stories,’ I’ve also included my past reviews of some of his other collections.

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See below for John M.W. Smith on social media …

Website:             www.johnmwsmith.my-free.website

Blog:                    www.johnmwsmithswackyweeklyblog.blogspot.co.uk/

Facebook:          @twistendings

Twitter:              @wackyscribe

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More Longer Wacky Stories with Twist Endings

stars5‘Twist in the Tales’ scenarios done to sheer perfection, loved every one of these little gems !!!

jmw3It’s been a  few years since I read one of this author’s excellent short story collections, and I must say this latest novella lengthed 13 story anthology is the best so far. As in previous collections, the stories culminate in some unexpected twist in the tale, some quite startling while others are more of Ah-ha moment, though not once did I remotely see what it would be in each case. Mostly the stories stick to just one or two female characters (though not always), allowing the author to develop them more than is usual within the confines of a short story. Some of the tales are truly uplifting and will make the reader smile, but in a bit of a departure from previous books, others are indeed a tad sad, and equally sad, are more reflective of the not so nice side of human nature, as is the case in A Lonely Heart Breaks Easily.

This collection is definitely grittier, and with more of an edge to some of the stories that I’ve seen in previous ones, venturing into more controversial (almost taboo) themes such as in the third offering, It’s So Easy to Fall in Love, where the wronged woman turns out to be far more predatory than the reader is originally led to believe. 

Most of the author’s stories centre around female characters, some strong and self-assured while others are often more fragile and vulnerable, so in some respects it’s easy to see why they would enjoy such popularity in women’s magazines/journals, and yet, I maintain, these stories are of a much wider appeal to anyone who enjoys cleverly crafted scenarios, great writing and dialogue, and in every case, an unexpected but totally satisfying conclusion to a story. I really can’t praise these little gems more highly.

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MY PREVIOUS REVIEWS OF THE AUTHOR’S WORK …

Wacky Stories with Twist Endings  – Volumes  1 to 4

(Available in eBook & print formats via Amazon)

 

 

Volume 1: 

stars5Stories to bring a smile and a chuckle to any reader

This is a short collection of eight humorous short stories, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. The ‘twist at the end’ in the first four stories are more the sort to make you smile and chuckle rather than gasp in amazement, but every scenario and ending are entirely believable and just the sort of situation that any reader might readily identify with. In the later stories, the twist ending tend to have a bit more ‘punch’ to them, and the stories steadily become a little more intricate.

The author keeps the number of characters to a minimum in each case, and within the obvious confines of a short story, the characters are well-developed with convincing and natural dialogue. Each story is written in an easy to read and follow style, yet despite their apparent simplicity, all are actually very clever and well crafted.

By the author’s own admission, the stories are primarily aimed at a female readership, but the quality of writing and story-telling does I believe give them a much broader appeal. I shall certainly be reading and reviewing the other three volumes in this series.

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Volume 2:

stars5 More chuckle-inducing stories with a mischievous and unexpected twist at the end.

Another short collection of eight short stories; as in the previous volume of this collection, every story is well crafted and wholly believable. Again, not one of these stories will fail to bring a smile and a chuckle to the face of the reader, but unlike the previous volume, the stories here are a little more involved, with a slightly more adult and mischievous flavour to them.

For such short stories, some of them are quite complex, dealing with issues of romance, family, and work issues. Again the characters are convincing and well-developed. The increased complexity of the stories, as compared to volume one, does require a slightly greater degree of concentration from the reader, but the rewards are more than worth it.

Overall, another great volume of well written and light-hearted stories which fans of the short story genre and women in particular, will really enjoy.

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Volume 3:

stars5Another ‘naughty but nice’ addition to this highly entertaining series …

Well, this is the third volume of stories I’ve reviewed in this series and once again, I’ve not been disappointed.

Without reiterating too much of what I’ve said in my previous reviews, each of these delightful short stories has an unexpected, and in this volume more so than in previous ones, a quite often rather `naughty’ and punchier twist in the ending – never more so was the term `naughty but nice’ quite so appropriate. Compared to previous volumes, I think the stories here are, whilst still quite charming, are tending towards slightly more adult orientated themes. Again the reader never really sees what’s coming, and the author is an adept at leading the reader up the garden path so to speak before firmly tugging them back to a really effective punchline and conclusion.

What I’ve also noticed and enjoyed in this third volume is the way author very quickly settles the reader into feeling comfortable and familiar in what they’re reading; although each story is different and unique in its own way, there are often striking similarities in names, places, and the domestic settings in which they occur that you could almost feel that you’re reading another chapter in the lives of the characters in a previous story, much like that sense of familiarity you might encounter in reading the sequel to a novel. By employing such techniques, many of the characters appear much more developed and rounded than they might otherwise, given the limitations of the short and flash fiction genres.

I would agree with the author’s own admission that his stories are indeed aimed at a primarily female readership, and this volume perhaps more than in previous ones, but as your typical Neanderthal male, I too enjoyed them immensely and as such would contend that they still have a much broader appeal that of their intended market. Another great collection, and again, highly recommended …

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Volume 4: 

stars5A deliciously diverse collection of stories to both shock and make you smile …

This is the fourth and last volume of the ‘wacky stories’ series. Like the previous ones, all the stories are well written, and mostly with a deliciously naughty twist in them.

One of the dangers of anthologies such as this is that there can be a tendency for the stories to become repetitive, but here we have a refreshing diversity. Just when you think you’ve got the stories figured out, the author throws in a couple that are as delightfully sentimental and smile-inducing as you can imagine; the first story has quite an adult theme to it, treating the reader to a really sharp and almost shocking twist, whereas in another of the stories, the author leads the reader in a very definite direction, only to delight with a more gentle shock, and of the most touching confirmations of enduring love as I’ve read in a long time.

Yes, the stories are aimed at a female readership, but I think their appeal extends much further. I will certainly be reading some of the author’s differently themed anthologies in the near future. All in all, a great series that I would heartily recommend not only a female readership but anyone who enjoys cleverly written stories of the ‘twist in the tale genre’…

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Click HERE for the author’s Amazon author page, and links to all his books …jmw9a

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