I decided to really challenge myself this year to ensure my reading took into account authors from many cultures. I came across this title in a list of 7 debut authors to read in February by the folk at Crimereads.com. It fitted my likes perfectly and was from an author from India. Deepa Anappara worked as a journalist in India for eleven years covering the impact of religious violence and poverty on the education of children. In this novel she tells a story of the dark underbelly of an unnamed Indian city through the eyes of Jai, a nine-year-old boy who lives in the ‘basti’, a place of deep poverty, ramshackle housing and where children disappear. Jai is determined to find his missing friend as he watches Police Patrol and knows how to be a detective. With his friends, Pari a smart girl who always has a book in her hand, Faiz his Muslim friend, they decide to take on the search as no matter how many bribes are paid to the police of the basti they do not look for the missing children. Jai’s voice is precocious and includes his inner thoughts – is it a djinn that has taken the children? We understand the basti and the world of Jai’s family through his interpretation and this remains truly a nine year old’s view throughout some dark circumstances. We also glimpse the inner world of the missing children as we experience their last experiences. Children who are resentful of the chores they must do, rebelling against drunken fathers, families that need them to work even though they are only 10 and just to be alone for once can lead them into danger. The trio of detectives are wonderful. And even though Pari ends up more like Sherlock and Jai is more Watson you do hope they survive the dangerous task they have set themselves. Religious violence makes no sense to children and this comes through this novel as well. There is a powerful undercurrent of social commentary within Jai’s story as the basti is next to a gated community of rich people and their demands on their workers are relentless, putting the children in more danger as they are alone more and more. The corruption of the police, politicians who use the situation for their gain and sow more division in the community all feature seamlessly and told through Jai’s eyes are more shocking I think as he becomes cynical about the adults around him. The writing is very polished and the story is told well. And you will chuckle, worry and come to like Jai, our cheeky, precocious, hapless detective. Another great read and definitely recommended if you are challenging yourself to read outside your cultural experience.