Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Review: The Girl Who Went Missing by Ace Varkey

Book: The Who Went Missing

Author: Ace Varkey

Pages: 245

I read: The Advance Reader's Copy (ARC) sent to me on my Kindle by the author.

I read it in: 3 hours or so

Plot Summary: When June Warner arrives in India to visit her sister Thalia, a trip to take her mind off her jilted engagement, she is greeted by the bright hot chaos of Mumbai but not her sister. She goes to the YMCA where Thalia is staying, only to find that she is not there.

Convinced that Thalia’s no-show is a sign that she is in danger, June begins a desperate search for her younger sister.

Police Commissioner Oscar D'Costa, scarred by the tragedies of his past, swears he will never again ignore his gut instinct when it comes to a missing girl. And with more and more dead foreign women being found in his precinct, he becomes convinced a conspiracy is at play.

What I Liked: Quick list:
  • First of all, let me just put this out there- I am always a bit stressed whenever I pick up a book written by an expat/ person who is not of Indian origin on India. I get stressed because there are so many ways in which such a book can go wrong, speaking India-wise, of course. The most common depiction of India in such books is 'exotic' (if they are being kind or not bothering to do their research) or 'dirty/disgusting/poverty'-type focus (again, racist plus no research). So, I was pleasantly surprised (and relieved!) to read a book where the author really got the whole Mumbai experience. Of course, the average Indian does have weird preconceived notions about "white women" and the way those situations have been written and handled in the book are totally fair. Ace Varkey gets the atmosphere and vibe of Mumbai very well and that's 1 point on the 5-star rating scale right there. 
  • The premise of The Girl Who Went Missing is most interesting- an elder sister arrives in a strange city to find her only family in the whole world- her younger sister- missing. The sense of unease, alarm and rising panic that June when Thalia does not show up at the airport and is not found in her room at the YWCA are very well captured. 
  • I liked that the book was written from several different perspectives but in spite of that it never gets confusing or jumpy. The narrative flows smoothly and the different perspectives of multiple characters gives us a glimpse into who they really are and adds a good dimension to the story. 
  • The "investigation" process is interesting. There is more than one red herring and a few different possibilities on where Thalia could be/ what could have happened to Thalia. So, the actual "crime" is not completely obvious, which is always a good thing. 
  • In terms of characters, there are several likable and well-crafted ones. First, there is June, who has come to meet her sister in Mumbai to get over a recently broken engagement. June is smart, calm and goes about dealing with a new city and scary situations with a steely resolve. Then there is Thalia, about whom we learn from the friends she has made in Mumbai, who is smart, adventurous and fearless. Police Commissioner Oscar D'Costa is another well-written character. He has a tragic past (a young daughter who was murdered) and is shown as a constant crusader for truth.
  • The central theme in this book (not saying what it is because what happened to Thalia is connected to it) is very relevant and the various pieces of that "business" seem well researched. So, this book makes for an intelligent read as well.
What I Didn't Like: Just a few things:
  • Thalia not having a cellphone, supposed to be a character quirk, seemed rather convenient to the whole plot. I mean, come on! You are in a strange country and you don't want to get a cellphone to stay in touch with people back home and also the new friends you've made here? Thalia, who was in India on a Fulbright scholarship to study Saraswati Temples, was travelling all over the country to see said temples and that is all the more reason why someone needs to have a cellphone. Like I said, this was too convenient and the only thing in the book that rang hollow to me. 
  • In terms of the balance between the build-up to what happened to Thalia and the actual reveal, in this book, that was 90:10. As in, for 90% of the book, you have no clue if Thalia is even dead or alive. Now, while I appreciate the mystery and the whole keep you guessing strategy of the book, however, the end was rushed and slightly anti-climactic. I wish the author had done an 80:20 instead and we had gotten a more balanced story. This is not a deal-breaker, but just a minor irritant.

The Girl Who Went Missing is releasing on April 23 on, so, if you like a good mystery story, I would highly recommend you get this book.

Rating: 4/5

1 comment:

shivangi ramsay said...

You have an excellent taste in books. I am learning so much from your blog. I love the way you have decorated your house.