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by Altaf Tyrewala, ed.
Akashic, February 2012
279 pages
ISBN: 1617750271

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Akashic Books has created an outstanding series of noir anthologies, each centered on a different city in the world. For Mumbai, its latest choice, they have chosen wisely. Not only does the editor Altaf Tyrewala bring a context to the setting and mood of the city with his well-written introduction, but his own short story contribution ("The Watchman") is one of the best in the volume, building just the right heightening of tension, without giving anything away.

His characters, like so many in these noir short stories, are fatalistic. In "The Watchman," the neighbors try to convince the main character (the watchman for a gated apartment community) that they are prepared to die, with one even tempting fate (in the form of dodging traffic) to prove his point.

In general, what this series of noir short stories does is bring a focus and personality to a city (in this case, Mumbai), even as it examines the underbelly of its urban culture. In this collection, what is most obvious from these stories is the accepting, even philosophical, nature of the average Mumbai resident. The first story in the volume, "Justice," most clearly brings this point across; in point of fact, the story's title is ironic for there is no justice in the darker reaches of this city. Instead, there are only the victims, each trying to make the best of what's been unfairly handed to him or her.

Other short stories in the book explore some of the features unique to the city…its burgeoning population, the religious differences among its citizens, the history of violence brought most clearly to the world's notice in the recent bomb blasts from outside terrorists, its sexual proclivities, and its growing wealth, which is both a blessing and a curse.

Like so many other books in this series, MUMBAI NOIR has much to say about the people who inhabit the city, the trials they face, and the way in which they adapt to violence and misery on any given day.

Thoroughly enjoyable and highly recommended, this book will appeal to mystery readers, armchair travelers, and anyone who finds himself fascinated by the city of Mumbai.

§ Christine Zibas is a freelance writer and former director of publications for a Chicago nonprofit.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, February 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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