The Blue Bar by Damyanti Biswas

Title: The Blue Bar (Blue Mumbai #1)

Author: Damyanti Biswas

Published on: 1 January 2023

Genre: Mystery & Thrillers

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Blue Bar is the first book in Damyanti Biswas’ Blue Mumbai Thriller series.

The story begins with Tara at Borivali station. She’s wearing a sliver blouse, blue sequined saree, and a shawl over it. Her phone begins to ring. She puts her shawl down, and stands on the train platform. Some give her a lecherous glance. Then, her phone starts to ring again. She has three minutes to run. She runs like her life depends on it. That’s the last time anyone saw Tara.

Thirteen years later, Inspector Arnav Singh Rajput, Tara’s lover, is still grappling with her disappearance. Every time the police found a buried body of a woman, he feared it was that of Tara. There’s a crisis now: a decapitated body of a woman is found at a construction site. The site is owned by a well-known builder named Taneja. He was in the news for all the wrong reasons – which started soon after the #metoo movement began to grab media’s attention.

Soon, two more bodies are found nearby. But the bodies are decapitated – no head, arms or legs. With just a torso, it wouldn’t be easy for the medical examiner or the police to identify the victim.

Someone high up in the police force is playing dirty games. They do not want Arnav to investigate. Taneja seems to be good friends with the commissioner and tries to stop Arnav’s investigation. Soon, things start to fall in place – the missing pieces of puzzle dating to a decade worth of cold cases.

First things first, Damyanti Biswas has done a fantastic job with this series debut. Gritty, gripping, keeps you hooked until the end, and completely engrossing police procedural. Well, this is the first police procedural I have read that features an Indian policeman – and is set in Mumbai, the city of dreams.

The writing is peppered with a couple of Marathi, Hindi and Malayalam (just one or two) words – which gave the story an authentic and desi touch. I suppose the best song to hum to while reading this book is, Aye Ganpath chal daru la. Speaking of songs, whenever Aksa Beach was mentioned, I couldn’t help but hum to “Tujhe Aksa Beach ghoomau aa chalti kya?” With all these filmy songs playing in my head, I hope that someday this book gets picked for a TV series or a movie adaptation. Kai bolte ho?

The mystery behind the gruesome murders kept me guessing till the end. Then there’s dirty politics – like a LOT. Bribes and double crossings is “yeh toh chalta hai har kahi.” This story is so desi that I cannot myself from writing this review in Hinglish, kya?

The story alternates between three/four PoVs: Arnav, Tara and Bilal/the boy. I am including Bilal and the unnamed character (till the end) who’s referred to as ‘the boy’ under under PoV as their narrations inter lap.

Dance bars were common in Mumbai until the government brought about a order to stop them. Almost two decades later, they were given permission and license. This is well-explored in the story – from Tara’s disappearance to what made her run away to her life when she was a bar girl.

What I found creepy was the side story of a character who’s only known to us readers as ‘the boy.’ As his identity and past was revealed, I felt a bit sad for what he had to go through. But that’s no excuse to become a monster, is it?

Bhai! This story was ek dum first class! Maza aagaya! I have read Damyanti’s debut novel and was eagerly waiting to read The Blue Bar. I am not disappointed. Nope. Totally impressed. Damyanti, if you have a fan list (I know you do!), please add me to it.

Absolutely fantastic storytelling. Excellent character portrayal. A perfect start to a thrilling series. I am eagerly waiting to see what’s next for Arnav.

What are you waiting for? Go ahead, grab your copy of The Blue Bar today. Keep a plate of Pao Bhaji by the side while you read this book. (Pao Bhaji is mentioned so many times in this book that I felt like ordering a plate right away.)

I received an ARC from Thomas & Mercer and NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased opinion.

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