Bangalore. Three high-profile women murdered, their bodies draped in identical red saris. When the killer targets the British Foreign Minister’s ex-wife, Scotland Yard sends the troubled, brilliant DI Vijay Patel to lend his expertise to the Indian police investigation. Stranger in a strange land, ex-professional cricketer Patel must battle local resentment and his own ignorance of his ancestral country, while trying to save his failing relationship back home. Soon, the killer’s eyes will turn to Patel and also to Chandra Subramanium, the fierce female detective he is working with in Bangalore…
Cold Sun is the first novel in the DS Vijay Patel detective series from Anita Sivakumaran and what a compelling introduction to a series it is. As a murderous individual targets well-to-do women in Banglalore, now Bengaluru, leaving the city police baffled and disorganised, an unusual consultant is called upon to help track down a killer…
As a crime reader embarking on a new series it’s always intrinsically important for the author to make a solid connection with the reader with their main protagonist. In Leicester born, Gujarati DS Vijay Patel, Sivakumaran has certainly achieved this, with an interesting back story, an unsettled personal life and his new, and largely reluctant role working within an unfamiliar police team, in a largely unfamiliar country.
“The Indian wealthy were trapped in the East, where poverty and lawlessness, unsentimental fatalism and merry-go-round logic made the whole place a beast of eccentricity that toyed with their petty Western aspirations. He was in the lawless East. Mind-bending eccentric East.”
As Sivakumaran immerses us in the bustling and chaotic environs of Bangalore, pulsating with life and energy, the colour and the heady smells, whilst representing equally the extreme poverty with the extreme wealth, she really gives us a sense of the bombardment of the senses and mind that Patel experiences. It was also interesting to see the social and cultural differences of this region in comparison to India as a whole, Bengaluru being one of India’s most populous cities. Although Patel has gained a certain amount of kudos back in Yorkshire, having been instrumental in the capturing of a serial killer, I loved the way that the author subtly undermines this former success, as we see Patel struggling with the vagaries of Indian policing, navigating the local culture, and perhaps more disturbingly the effect the local cuisine has on his digestive system.
Weighed down by the expectations of his new police colleagues, and in the firing line of both the media and the Foreign Secretary having been bought in as a specialist consultant, Sivakumaran is given plenty of scope to put Patel under extreme pressure. Throw into the mix a crumbling personal relationship, which was more of a distraction, adding a predictability to the plot, and a mercurial female detective in the form of Chandra Subraminium, a fierce, and not altogether unattractive colleague who keeps Patel on his toes and under her spell, there is plenty of entertainment to be had at the expense of the initially bewildered Patel. As he observes,
“This unpredictable madness. Chandra dealt in this every day. Policing by the skin of her teeth. She selectively used or discarded the law according to her own idea of what was right or wrong… He was without the will or wherewithal to question his path through the Indian jungle. Chandra hacked a trail for him and he simply followed.”
The spiky relationship between himself and Subraminium works very well, and it was good to once again see a female character with purpose and drive, who, at times, plays Patel like a fiddle, whilst nursing a grudging respect for his professional achievements, amongst other things…
Although the main plot of Cold Sun is a little linear, and the identity of the misogynistic killer ‘Gentleman’ not as well disguised as maybe it could have been, overall I enjoyed this first foray into the world of DS Vijay Patel, mainly due to the characterisation, and the depiction of the culture and atmosphere of Bangalore. I’m interested to see how this character is developed in follow up books, and how far afield his future cases take him, as the bar has set been quite high initially in terms of being transported to India on an international case. I look forward to finding out. Recommended.
Anita Sivakumaran was born in Madras and has lived in the UK since 2004. Cold Sun is her first novel in the DI Patel detective series. She lives in Leicester with her husband, children and a dog. Her historical novel, The Queen, based on real events, has been made into a major television series. Her second book, The Birth of Kali, retells Indian mythology from a feminist point of view. She is passionate about tennis and growing vegetables. Black Rain, her second DI Patel novel, is set in Leicester, with her allotment featuring prominently as the setting of a murder.
(With thanks to Dialogue Books for the ARC)
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