A few thoughts about Cut Like Wound, by Anita Nair
Cut Like Wound made news and reviews when it was released in 2012. It was one of a very few crime novels set in Bengaluru. Procedural crime was a rarity in India. The lead character, Inspector Gowda, was much more interesting than the usual. And Anita Nair herself was quite well known in the literary world already.
Is the book worth the hype? To a large extent, yes. Gowda is interesting. The serial murderer and the murders themselves are written well. The atmosphere of Bangalore is captured to some extent (though more could have been done there). And the supporting characters - politicians, socialites, and Gowda’s family and colleagues - are fleshed out enough to have a real role. And yes, there is some sort of surprise at the end (explaining any further would be a spoiler, and this one I don’t want to spoil. No, the butler didn’t do it).
Nair takes pains to include in Bangalore locations and customs. However: she does not have much insight into the dominant industries in the city, (a) software, (b) government offices, (c) small scale industries and shops, leading to her picture of the city feeling incomplete. The stress seems to be on “exotic” feeling locations and settings - the bustle of Commercial Street, the Mount Mary festival in Shivajinagar, art galleries, and so on.
About the structure of the book, Nair has strictly followed the genre conventions. We have the new recruit as the audience surrogate, the fractured family life of the policeman, the pressure from office politics, the childhood trauma to the bad guy, and so on. If you actually read a lot of European police procedurals, you’ll find yourself expecting a lot of this. But Nair refreshes the genre by setting it successfully in Bangalore and reinterpreting it. So read it more for the setting, less for the story.
Worth reading? Yes, it was a fun read (though not groundbreaking). I will probably read the recent sequel, Chain of Custody, as well.