Review of ‘Hush A Bye Baby’: When the cradle falls

A few irritants apart, you want to know how it all ends

Deepanjana Pal’s Hush A Bye Baby is a police procedural where the action shifts focus continually among 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. 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, comfortable facility while a team of cops from the Crimes Against Women cell gets down to investigating the charges against her.

The problem is, only one woman has filed charges; the rest of the evidence is based on anonymous phone calls. Dr. Rai’s circle of kith and kin, of course, close ranks. Where should the cops look? Maybe into the Internet sites 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, add much. 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, we could await a sequel of sorts.

The manuscript editor and author

is based in Bengaluru.

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 11:30:05 AM |

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