Literary Review

A chase through a city’s underbelly

Chain of Custody; Anita Nair, HarperCollins, Rs. 350.

Chain of Custody; Anita Nair, HarperCollins, Rs. 350.

Inspector Gowda is back. And how! In charge of a police outpost in Bengaluru rural district, Borei Gowda is a man with a good, if somewhat rusty, heart.

When his maid’s 12-year-old daughter disappears from school one day, and is last spotted in the city’s bustling Shivaji Nagar market area, he leaves no stone unturned to track the girl down. His colleague Santosh, who barely survived an assault on his life in the first book in the series, Cut Like Wound (2012), is put in charge of the investigation under the assumption that it will be a soft case. And thus ease him back into the job. But all clues point in a terrifying direction — a vicious child trafficking ring operating in the city. Gowda and Santosh are also aided by a new entrant, the go-getting constable Ratna, as they trawl through the city’s underbelly in a virtual race against the clock — will they be able to rescue the girl before she is sold off to modern-day slave traders and meet a destiny worse than death?

The thriller elements and social commentary aside, Anita Nair’s Chain of Custody (which hits bookshops this month) is also a story about Gowda himself, a 50-something man with a messy private life. His wife, a doctor, has shifted to Hassan because she doesn’t like life in the undeveloped housing colony on Bengaluru’s northern outskirts, and their teenage son has left with her to study there. Gowda suspects the boy is taking drugs, but doesn’t know how to bring the subject up without further damaging the brittle family ties. He immerses himself in his job. But police work is not just about going out and catching crooks. There are all kinds of office politics, caste politics and other considerations that make Gowda’s life unnecessarily complicated. Besides, living unwillingly separated from his family, Gowda has become intimate with the gorgeous 40-something socialite Urmila, who is engaged in child welfare.

Apart from being a fast-paced and engaging read with a deeply-felt social agenda, Chain of Custody is especially gratifying for readers who live in Bengaluru or have some kind of bond with the city. Occasionally, we get gut-wrenching peeks into Gowda’s thoughts: “This was a city where dog ate dog, rat devoured rat, and everyone would get ahead if they dismissed their conscience… Towers of Babel were rising everywhere and men came from all parts of the country to build these edifices that paid homage to human greed.”

Zac O’Yeah’s latest comic detective novel set in Bengaluru is the bestselling Hari, a Hero for Hire .

Chain of Custody; Anita Nair, HarperCollins, Rs. 350.


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Printable version | Jun 26, 2022 1:56:31 am | https://www.thehindu.com/books/literary-review/A-chase-through-a-city%E2%80%99s-underbelly/article14466856.ece