Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 05/14/18 5:07 AM

Book review: Hush A Bye Baby by Deepanjana Pal


When the cradle falls

Deepanjana Pal`s Hush A Bye Baby  (Juggernaut Publishers) is a police procedural where the action shifts focus continually amongst a small group of participants, rather like an Agatha Christie mystery.

Mumbai socialite and gynaecologist Dr Nandita Rai (we get a cracker of an intro to her) stands accused of female foeticide and as the story gradually unfolds, there is a hint that it could be male foeticide too. Given her prominence in society and the fact that her husband is a close friend of the police commissioner, she is held in a secluded, very comfortable facility while a team of cops from the Crimes Against Women cell get down to investigating the charges against her.

The problem is, only one woman has actually filed charges; the rest of the evidence is based on a number of anonymous phone calls.  Dr Rai`s circle of kith and kin, of course, close ranks. Just where are the cops to look? Maybe into the internet sites that the doctor frequents,  thinks one computer-savvy young cop.

You might find that elegance elbows out grittiness in the tale.  When a cop states `Hope was all sorts of wonderful…` and another says somebody is `entirely too familiar`  with something, you might wonder if the language is really the patois Mumbai cops use.

You might find the  flipped motive a bit weak,  you might ask yourself if the little homilies on sundry subjects, even Dr Rai`s sermon at the end of the book, tend not to add much to the tale. But you  do want to know how it all ends. And you really like it when Dr Rai`s Big Construction Magnate   husband starts to look at her with doubt…neat touch, that.

There are small reveals for the reader mostly via conversations, and all the main characters are well fleshed out, be it Dr Rai, Inspector Hadpude,  sub-inspectors Lad and Reshma Gabuji.

There`s a Hadpude Surprise in here, as well as a Reshma Surprise, which you both see and don`t see coming. The frequent riffs   on feminine rage give heft to the narrative. From the way the story ends, all indications are that we could await a sequel of sorts.

This ran in THE HINDU of 12 May 2018.

Deepanjana PalfictionLiterary Reviewpolice procedural

Sheila Kumar • May 14, 2018

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