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Bombay Monsoon


Bombay Monsoon

The author of the Ellie Stone mysteries, James W. Ziskin has won Anthony and Barry awards, and the Macavity Award for Best Historical Novel. BOMBAY MONSOON launches his series set in summer 1975 Bombay (renamed Mumbai in 1995), the monsoon season.

A budding news agency had reassigned young American journalist Dan Jacobs from Vietnam and other Asian countries. India’s only female prime minister has declared The Emergency, censoring news venues and appointing herself the authority to cancel elections. “India is an enchanting place, but it can be overwhelming to foreigners.”

"Astute readers will recall each character and scene as the plot cuts to the chase. Literally."

What’s a journalist not allowed to publish news to do? Promising anonymity, Danny interviews, and surreptitiously photographs, a thug named Bikas who assassinated the relative of a police official. A few days later, Bikas wants the undeveloped film and trashes Danny’s apartment while searching for it. “People were vigilant and distrustful. Of each other, of the police, of me.”

Similarities of two MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL characters are evident. Danny Jacobs appears to be from the mold of journalist-author John Berendt (John Kelso in the film version). Beguiling Willy Smets, who throws lavish parties for expats in Bombay, somewhat resembles Savannah’s Joe Odom.

Willy invites Danny to the penthouse for one of his parties, where he meets exotic Sushmita, Willy’s mistress. Danny is smitten and tells himself it is only platonic feelings, although she “was clever, sexy, and…complicated.” The attraction is mutual…and complicated. The journalist raises an eyebrow when his host vaguely mentions that he is in the import-export business.

Bomber-thug Bikas makes it evident that Danny’s journalistic life is coming to an end. Make that simply life. Sushmita aids him to escape to the mountainous city of Poona (renamed Pune), where she owns a bungalow purportedly inherited from a forebear. Insufferable bigot Russ Harlan, flight attendant Birgit and even “untouchable” servant Ramu either have polar opposite doppelgängers or are not whom they seem to be. They appear throughout this geopolitical plot set in the dazzling multicultural-ethnic-linguistic subcontinent.

The panoramic view of India is truncated when the jigsaw pieces are assembled. Astute readers will recall each character and scene as the plot cuts to the chase. Literally. A chair-gripping car chase down harrowingly narrow mountain roads will have readers begging for a film adaptation. Please, Mr. Ziskin?

Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy on December 10, 2022

Bombay Monsoon
by James W. Ziskin