editor's choice



We know and very much admire Anita Nair’s literary fiction and yet, despite being huge crime-fiction lovers, we hadn’t read any of her writing in the genre. Until now. And it’s astounding. Beautifully realised, authentic, truly great crime. Just pleasing in every way.

A Cut-Like Wound introduces fallen hero Borei Gowda, a police inspector in a small station in Bangalore (Bengaluru), whose career has effectively come to a halt due to his failure to toe the line. Gowda, who’s ‘soft in the middle but blurred at the edges’, is rather brilliant at what he does, yet at the point we meet him he is world weary, lonely, as his family’s abandoned him, and he drinks far too much. His sidekick – young sub-inspector Santosh – is his polar opposite. He wants to learn from Gowda, whose cases are legendary: for despite his cynicism, Gowda has a strong moral compass and a belief in justice, something quite difficult to achieve in the flawed and corrupt system within which he works.

The Bangalore Nair evokes is far different to the glossy, urbane southern Indian city that Europeans may be familiar with. The world presented to us in A Cut-Like Wound is the city’s underbelly, where societal norms fade away and criminals rub shoulders with people from different castes, faiths, genders. Here the hijras* live, many as prostitutes. And it’s here that Gowda and Santosh come across the body of a prostitute, savagely murdered on the first day of Ramzan, burned and strangled with a strangely fashioned weapon. It’s the first of many such killings. And as Gowda struggles to find the perpetrator, his superiors rail against the idea that there’s a serial killer in town.

Set over thirty-eight days, A Cut-Like Wound is a tightly written, fluid piece of crime-fiction. Essentially, at its core, it deals with the issue of identity, each character conflicted in some way, particularly hijra Bhuvana.

Gowda is an appealingly flawed protagonist, reminiscent in many ways of Ian Rankin’s Rebus, and yet it’s the city which really shines as a character, brought to life vividly through the author’s honed, beautifully placed prose. This is crime-fiction truly at its best.

On a final note, it’s a huge pleasure, particularly in our current strange world, that a publisher would choose to push its backlist titles, Nair’s novel published in the UK in 2014. And it’s a particular pleasure for us when it means that we’re introduced to a new crime-fiction series … which, of course, isn’t so new after all. So brava** Bitter Lemon Press for doing just that. And brava Anita Nair for a job so terrifically well done.


* Hirjas – India’s ‘third gender’, whose birth sex is male but identify as female or as neither female nor male.

** For us, publishers are, of course, female!


A Cut-Like Wound | Anita Nair | Bitter Lemon Press | 2012 | pb | £8.99 |

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Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the book tour organised by Random Things Tours. Many thanks to Anne Cater for the invitation and to the publisher for supplying a review copy. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved. Please check out the other reviews on this tour.

See also: Kamala Markandaya’s beautiful words’; ‘Alice Walker and the power of poetry’;‘Helen Fitzgerald’s Ash Mountain’‘Jane Harper’s debut The Dry, murder and mayhem in small-town Australia’;CWA’s Vintage Crime’; ‘Amanda Craig’s homage to Highsmith‘; ‘Chris Whitaker’s small-town America’; ‘Nora Roberts’ Sanctuary: an Old Familiar’; Carver’s Nothing Important Happened Today’; By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘Yvonne Battle-Fenton’s Remembered‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘We should all be feminists‘; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

Also of interest: Night Mail (1936), changing the face of British film; A Colour Box by Len Lye (1935); Hitchcock (2012); The Splendour of George Stevens’ Giant (1956). Hitchcock (2012).

This review is copyright © 2020 by The Literary Shed. All rights are reserved. All opinions expressed are our own. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please contact us for permission and provide the necessary credit. Thank you so much. We welcome your feedback.




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