Saturday, June 22, 2013

Book Review: The Sea of Innocence by Kishwar Desai

Title: The Sea of Innocence
Author: Kishwar Desai
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 264
Price: Rs 350
Genre: Fiction / Thriller /Crime / Women issues
Rating: 6/10
Format: Paperback

‘The Sea of Innocence’ is the third book in the trilogy by Kishwar Desai. The first one was ‘Witness the Night’ and the second one was ‘Origins of Love’. The only connections between the three are the main protagonist Simran Singh, and the fact that each one of them deal with a women-centric issue. ‘Witness the Night’ was about female infanticide while ‘Origins of Love’ was about Surrogacy and IVF.

About the Book (from the blurb):
Goa, south India. A beautiful holiday hideaway where hippies and backpackers while away the hours. But beneath the clear blue skies lies a dirty secret…

Simran Singh is desperate for a break and some time away from her busy job as a social worker-come-crime investigator. And so the unspoilt idyll of Goa seems just the place - white beaches, blue seas and no crime. 

But when a disturbing video appears on her phone, featuring a young girl being attacked by a group of men, she realises that a darkness festers at the heart of this supposed paradise. And when she discovers out that the girl is Liza Kay, a British teenager who has gone missing, she knows she must act in order to save her.

But first Simran must break through the web of lies and dark connections that flourish on these beaches. Everyone, it seems, knows what has happened to the girl but no one is prepared to say. And when more videos appear, and Simran herself is targeted in order to keep her quiet, the paradise soon becomes a living nightmare.

My thoughts:
Kishwar Desai does not beat around the bush. Her first few lines are always the attention-grabbers. She comes straight to the point (or the case).

The main protagonist in the series, Simran Singh, is a 46-year old social worker (who really ends up being a detective for the cases she gets embroiled in). Simran Singh is long past conventional marriageable age, loves her smoke and destresses with alcohol. She is headstrong but gullible at times; though her heart is in the right place. She has a penchant for courting risks by meddling into cases related to vulnerable women, which usually also runs her into powerful politicians and inefficient police. Her family consists of her mother and an adopted teenage daughter, Durga (who was part of ‘Witness the Night’).

Quite evidently, the book has taken liberally from the much-publicised Scarlett Keeling case. You may read about the case here. Since it was dealing with sexual crime against women, the book also gives a lot of references of the recent Delhi gang-rape case and other such reported cases, which sometimes puts the narrative off-track. But clearly, author’s motive was to highlight the injustice meted out to women like Scarlett Keeling who have been victims of sexual violence and who are now lost into oblivion with several perpetrators yet to be brought to books.

Honestly speaking, the author had much to consider in putting all the strings together for this book. Having the protagonist on the crime scene; involving her in situations in which Scarlett was found dead; also incorporating the recent, much publicized Delhi rape case and other sexual violence reports; Simran’s pursuit of the case; inserting a romantic angle; and moreover, the setting of Goa had its own baggage like issues of locals against tourists, problems due to modernization, night life, surge in crime, the drugs mafia, et al. I felt there were a few unnecessary, cringe-worthy sequences about the sexual violence.

What I admire about the author is her ability to highlight a social, women-centric issue and weave a fascinating, fast-paced thriller around it. Perhaps it is her years of experience in journalism that helps her accomplish that. In retrospect, since I had read her previous 2 books, perhaps I had unrealistic expectations from the third one. But if you like this one, trust me, you will love the other ones more.

This book is not a masterpiece but like all Kishwar Desai’s books, it is a compelling read, woven around topical women-centric issues, and like always, it too strikes a note. As Smita also mentioned, the only issue with all of the author’s three books is that their endings do little justice to the fast-paced narratives. But having said that I feel this book will work for the readers who like thrillers or crime-based fiction.

Review Book courtesy: Simon & Schuster India
Image source: Amazon

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