Book Review: Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara

Djinn Patrol

Djinn Patrol book cover

Title: Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line
Author: Deepa Anappara
Genre: Literary
Date of Publication: February 4, 2020
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart


Synopsis

Set in Metropolitan India, this atmospheric novel follows Jai and his two friends as they search for their missing classmate.  Obsessed with a police television show, Jai is convinced that he will be able to find the boy, even when the police themselves are indifferent about the case. As more and more children go missing, however, it becomes clear that there is something insidious going on, and Jai’s life will be forever changed by the events that unfold…

My Thoughts

This book is beautifully written. The words seem to leap off the page, creating a dynamic, three-dimensional image of metropolitan India. It felt like I was actually there.  The language, while beautiful, can be hard to follow at first, as Anappara uses many Indian words in casual conversation. While the meaning of the words can be discerned from context, I wish I’d noticed the glossary at the end of the e-book before reading the story.  That said, I don’t think not knowing the exact meaning of words impacted my enjoyment of their use.

The protagonist is a child named Jai, and his entire world is tinted by rose-coloured glasses. He has an innocent and naive perception of everything that goes on around him, which is demonstrated through both his observations and the prose.

The book mostly comes from Jai’s point of view, but we also get scenes from the missing children – their last memories before they disappear. This in itself is heartbreaking, particularly after reading the author’s afterword.  180 children go missing every year in India, which is a shocking statistic that makes the words on these pages even more poignant.

My favourite parts of this book were the parts where Jai’s friend, Faiz, would state that the djinn were stealing the souls of the children. Brought up casually in conversation, I think this served several important purposes. It added a supernatural air of mystery to the story and it reinforced our perception of these children’s innocence, but it also created a beautiful metaphor for the true malignant cause of the disappearances.

This book is marketed as a mystery, but I disagree.  From the description on Goodreads, I’d gotten the impression that it was about a group of children searching for their lost friend, and that it would read similarly to Stranger Things or The Goonies. This isn’t the case. Jai is compelled to search for the missing boy that he barely knew.  The story is not at all plot driven. It is primarily setting and character driven, and the focus isn’t at all on his search. While his friends are three-dimensional characters in this story, I never got the feeling that they have an unbreakable bond and would go to the ends of the earth to find each other should one of them go missing.  The story itself doesn’t carry with it a sense of hope that I prefer to see in coming of age stories. It’s more of a harsh removal of the rose-coloured glasses, and we see the world for what it really is.  Gloomy.

Djinn Patrol

I recommend this book for someone wanting to get lost in the streets of Metropolitan India.  This is a coming of age story more than a mystery, and it delivers a powerful commentary on a true story, and how tragedy can shape an entire community.

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* Thank you to NetGalley and McClelland & Stewart for the arc to review! *

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Book Review: Beneath London’s Fog by Iona Caldwell

Beneath London's Fog book cover

Title: Beneath London’s Fog 
Author: Iona Caldwell
Genre: Horror, Fantasy
Date of Publication: October 30, 2019
Publisher: FyreSyde Publishing


Synopsis

A centuries-old vampire haunts the streets of London at night, but he isn’t the monster one would expect. Jonathan once fell in love with a human, Anna, who died tragically, breaking his heart.  Now he does not kill to feed, though it would make him stronger. He lives in the feared Raven Hollow Manor with his daughter, an orphaned human he adopted.  Since he does not kill, he is safe from persecution, that is, until another vampire comes to town and this one doesn’t share Jonathan’s moral code…

Plot 

This is a novella, which is both a strength and a weakness. It’s a strength, because every word that Caldwell writes serves a purpose to either create atmosphere, plunge the plot forward, or develop three-dimensional characters. It’s also a weakness because I wanted more!

This book is rocket-fast paced. It’s designed as a quick and tumultuous adventure, rather than a long and arduous trek, which is often the case with Victorian-era vampire fiction.

There are many flashbacks throughout the story, but they felt a little too rushed to my liking. It often felt like a scene ended just when it was really beginning.  Caldwell had a dynamic idea that could have easily been extended into a full-length piece.

The plot of this novel did seem familiar, as if I’ve read it before. While deemed “horror” the book isn’t particularly scary. However, it does deal with some dark themes, (and vampires ripping out people’s throats is always considered horror, right?). That said, I would categorize this book more as a compelling mystery masquerading as a Gothic vampire horror.

Characters 

While fast-paced, the novel doesn’t forego necessary character descriptions. Jonathan isn’t a mysterious cloaked figure, but a well-fleshed out character. Caldwell does this through flashbacks as well as present-day interactions with his daughter.

Because of the shortness of the book, we don’t get to see as much of other characters, such as the villain (I’ll leave it vague since that’s a  spoiler!) or even his daughter, Anna. I would have liked to learn more about Anna, her motivations, and maybe experience more flashbacks to when she was first adopted by this creature of the night. What happens when a centuries-old vampire is raising a teenager? I’m hoping that future instalments in this series will give me the juicy details that I want!

Language

Beneath London’s Fog reads like other classic vampire stories–particularly Dracula or Interview with the Vampire. The style is authentic to the time period. The writing is also almost epistolary in the way that Jonathan seems to address the reader, but this isn’t extended throughout the whole story, which might have disconnected the readers from the action.

While Caldwell uses an older style of writing, this doesn’t detract from the quick pace of reading.  There aren’t any long, monotonous speeches, as seen in classic horror novels such as Dracula.  That said, there were occasional parts where the grammar seemed stilted, which is to be expected when using this style of writing.

Setting

Somehow in a 100-page novel, Caldwell hits all four readers advisory (librarian-nerd alert!) appeal factors–including setting, which is often neglected in shorter pieces.  She takes her time describing the city, as well as Raven Hollow Manor. She provides twisted history of this building, which was a delightfully dark surprise. But again, I wish she had delved deeper into the beautiful world she created. I wanted to learn more about the madman that had once lived in Raven Hollow, or the monster that apparently lurks deep beneath it.

Beneath London's Fog

I recommend this novella to anyone looking for a cozy horror story to read on a cold evening while curled up by the fireplace with a cat on one side and a glass of blood–er–wine on the other.

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*Thank you to FyreSyde Publishing for the advanced reader copy for review*

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Book Review: Violet by Scott Thomas

Violet

Violet

Title: Violet
Author: Scott Thomas
Genre: Horror, Literary
Date of Publication: September 23, 2019
Publisher: Inkshares


Synopsis

When Kris’s husband dies, she decides to take her daughter, Sadie, to stay at the summer cottage her family used to visit when she was a little girl.  But things aren’t quite as idyllic as Kris remembers.  The cottage is run down and uncared for.  The town of Pacington has had a string of missing girls.  Strangely, Sadie isn’t at all upset to be spending her summer in a creepy house in the middle of nowhere far from all her friends.  She’s made a new friend–an imaginary one. A little girl named Violet, who is suspiciously similar to the imaginary friend that Kris had when she stayed at this cottage twenty years ago…

Plot

The concept of this novel is simple, yet brilliant.  Unfortunately, because of this, there aren’t many twists in the plot that aren’t immediately given away by the blurb on the back of the book. Despite this, the book is all about the journey. It’s about following Kris as she struggles to understand what is happening, even if the reader already knows or suspects what is going on.

Unlike Kill Creek, Scott Thomas’s debut novel, Violet is far more literary, and, as a result, it is much slower paced.  There are many flashbacks to when Kris was a little girl staying in this house, filling in the gaps in her memories which have faded over the years.  The prose is powerful and gripping, and the setting and characters are so well-described that I could perfectly envision Kris and Sadie stepping out of the car and approaching their new home.

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