This is the second novel in Anglo-Indian author Glen Peters’ proposed series of Mrs D’Silva novels. The main protagonist, Joan D’Silva, is a beautiful thirtysomething Anglo-Indian widow who, having lost her husband and seen her young son Errol saved from kidnappers in the Shaitan of Calcutta, flees that part of the country to start a new life in Lucknow. But the proposed threat to her life from the Workers Revolutionary Movement never comes to anything. Indeed, they and her past seemed to be forgotten about altogether, as the story here follows a blackmail threat to a food factory and a shady religious guru exploiting young Americans. Inspired by his own youth in the changing India of the 1960s, Peters has created a world full of atmosphere, colour and spices.
But, while it is clearly very well researched, the people in it aren’t. They are thin, caricatures at best, badly drawn, and with random shifts in point of view throughout. The storytelling is lazy, too. For example, one character is hideously burnt, and when visited in hospital, his wounds are never described. It’s not a bad book, it’s just badly put together, like an early draft that has had only the merest perfunctory proofread and edit – the book jacket spells a main character’s name incorrectly, too. Even the glossary of Indian words is incomplete.
There is no real flow to the novel, either, with many of the chapters appearing to be standalone events, such as one particular chapter towards the end – focusing on Errol at a school event. It’ll make a nice short story, yes, but it’s just not relevant to the plot. There is a good book in here, somewhere. It’s just a shame it’s not this one.