The BookBrowse Review

Published January 22, 2020

ISSN: 1930-0018

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The BookBrowse Review

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Book Jacket

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line
by Deepa Anappara
4 Feb 2020
368 pages
Publisher: Random House
ISBN-13: 9780593129197
Genre: Novels
Critics:
Readers:
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In this transporting debut novel, three friends venture into the most dangerous corners of a sprawling Indian city to find their missing classmate.

Down market lanes crammed with too many people, dogs, and rickshaws, past stalls that smell of cardamom and sizzling oil, below a smoggy sky that doesn't let through a single blade of sunlight, and all the way at the end of the Purple metro line lies a jumble of tin-roofed homes where nine-year-old Jai lives with his family. From his doorway, he can spot the glittering lights of the city's fancy high-rises, and though his mother works as a maid in one, to him they seem a thousand miles away. Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line plunges readers deep into this neighborhood to trace the unfolding of a tragedy through the eyes of a child as he has his first perilous collisions with an unjust and complicated wider world.

Jai drools outside sweet shops, watches too many reality police shows, and considers himself to be smarter than his friends Pari (though she gets the best grades) and Faiz (though Faiz has an actual job). When a classmate goes missing, Jai decides to use the crime-solving skills he has picked up from TV to find him. He asks Pari and Faiz to be his assistants, and together they draw up lists of people to interview and places to visit.

But what begins as a game turns sinister as other children start disappearing from their neighborhood. Jai, Pari, and Faiz have to confront terrified parents, an indifferent police force, and rumors of soul-snatching djinns. As the disappearances edge ever closer to home, the lives of Jai and his friends will never be the same again.

Drawing on real incidents and a spate of disappearances in metropolitan India, Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line is extraordinarily moving, flawlessly imagined, and a triumph of suspense. It captures the fierce warmth, resilience, and bravery that can emerge in times of trouble and carries the reader headlong into a community that, once encountered, is impossible to forget.

"There's an almost Harry Potter-ish vibe to the relationship among the three intrepid kids, and Jai's voice is irresistible: funny, vivid, smart, and yet always believably a child's point of view...Engaging characters, bright wit, and compelling storytelling make a tale that's bleak at its core and profoundly moving." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"A model of verisimilitude...[Jai] comes to life on the page to live on in readers' memories." - Booklist

"[Anappara's] bright, propulsive prose...only accentuates the seriousness of her subject: the disappearance of children from villages in India, a real-life issue given intimate treatment here." - Library Journal

"The prose perfectly captures all the characters' youthful voices, complete with some Hindi and Urdu terms, whose meanings, if not immediately obvious, become clear with repetition. Anappara's complex and moving tale showcases a strong talent." - Publishers Weekly

"Storytelling at its best—not just sympathetic, vivid, and beautifully detailed, but completely assured and deft...We care about these characters from the first page and our concern for them is richly repaid." - Anne Enright, Man Booker Prize–winning author of The Gathering

"A stunningly original tale...I stayed up late every night until I finished, reluctant to part from Deepa Anappara's heart-stealing characters." - Etaf Rum, New York Times bestselling author of A Woman Is No Man

"The children at the heart of this story will stay with you long after you turn the last page...A wonderful debut." - Christie Watson, bestselling author of The Language of Kindness

Write your own review

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Victoria
Poignant story of Indian children
I received this as an ARC from Random House and Netgalley. I'm not sure I would call the book enjoyable, because it ends on a dark note and I wished there had been a different ending. But the author has done a masterful job meeting her stated intentions (in her notes afterward) and draw attention to the issue of child disappearances without sensationalizing it or turning it into a serial killer type story. Her ability to get inside the head of her pre-teen narrators was fantastic. If you enjoyed the non-fiction Behind the Beautiful Forevers, or the novel A Fine Balance, you should like this too.

Deepa Anappara grew up in Kerala, southern India, and worked as a journalist in cities including Mumbai and Delhi. Her reports on the impact of poverty and religious violence on the education of children won a Developing Asia Journalism Award, an Every Human has Rights Media Award, and a Sanskriti-Prabha Dutt Fellowship in Journalism. A portion of her debut novel, Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, won the Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize, the Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award, and the Bridport/Peggy Chapman-Andrews Award. She has an M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, where she is currently studying for a Ph.D. on a CHASE doctoral fellowship.

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