On the dark streets of Mumbai, the paths of a missing dancer, a serial killer, and an inspector with a haunted past converge in an evocative thriller about lost love and murderous obsession.
After years of dancing in Mumbai’s bars, Tara Mondal was desperate for a new start. So when a client offered her a life-changing payout to indulge a harmless, if odd, fantasy, she accepted. The setup was simple: wear a blue-sequined saree, enter a crowded railway station, and escape from view in less than three minutes. It was the last time anyone saw Tara.
Thirteen years later, Tara’s lover, Inspector Arnav Singh Rajput, is still grappling with her disappearance as he faces a horrifying new crisis: on the city’s outskirts, women’s dismembered bodies are being unearthed from shallow graves. Very little links the murders, except a scattering of blue sequins and a decade’s worth of missing persons reports that correspond with major festivals.
Past and present blur as Arnav realizes he’s on the trail of a serial killer and that someone wants his investigation buried at any cost. Could the key to finding Tara and solving these murders be hidden in one of his cold cases? Or will the next body they recover be hers?
2002, Borivali Station
Endings are overrated. There’s only one true, certain end—everything else a load of bullshit, or how you call it, bakwaas. Beginnings, though. Beginnings are everywhere. It all began with that midnight-colored saree, thick with dark-blue sequins, its endless sea of shimmering dots stitched by hands that must have cracked and bled over the months of needle in and out of taut cloth in some dingy, godforsaken hole in one of Mumbai’s stinking alleyways.
The saree, draped well below Tara’s navel, scratched against her skin. The low-necked silver blouse scraped her shoulders, but she tried not to think about any of this, or the sweat trickling down her back while she maneuvered through the crush of bodies.
It had rained that afternoon, cooling the air, but not enough for the wide, dark shawl Tara had worn as per instructions. It was never cold enough in Mumbai for shawls. Especially not on a platform at Borivali Station during rush hour, which swarmed thicker than ants on a dead beetle. The voices of hundreds of men and women rose around her, red-uniformed porters yelling at everyone to stand back, squalling children, announcements of all the trains departing from or arriving in India’s city of dreams.
The Blue Bar is narrated by various characters. Here’s what each character does when they are stressed:
- Tara: She takes to obsessive cleaning: cleaning the room she is in, the adjoining toilet, or taking repeated baths.
Arnav: He heads to the dojo, where he tries to center himself by practicing karate stances.
Villain: He cuts himself with a razor, while seated in his empty bathtub.
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BIO: Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is coeditor of the Forge Literary Magazine.
Apart from being a novelist, she is an avid reader of true crime, a blogger, and an animal lover. Her ambition has always been to live in a home with more books than any other item, and she continues to work toward that.