Deepa Anappara's debut novel Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line.
Djinn: "An intelligent spirit of lower rank than the angels, able to appear in human and animal forms and to possess humans."
Jai is nine years old and lives with his parents and older sister in a tin roofed home in the slums and shadow of wealthy high rises in a large Indian city. When a child from his school goes missing and the police are completely indifferent and uninterested, Jai decides to look for him with the help of his two friends.
Initially, I found the narrative to be somewhat light hearted. Jai uses his detective skills learned from his favorite television show. The banter between the friends is clever. Jai seems to be always in trouble with his family, teacher and neighbors. But things start to take on another note and a darker tone when another child goes missing. And the same indifference is employed from those 'above' the residents of this shanty town.
Jai's voice was wonderful - quick, sharp-witted, knowing, but still innocent, despite living a life we Westerners would view as deprived. He is greatly loved by his family and friends, is kind and caring with a roguish streak. I liked him very much.
The setting is so well described - I could feel the heat, smell the spices and hear the aunties complaining. The setting is just as much a character in the book. It dictates the direction the plot takes. And it goes places I didn't want it to. On reading the author's notes, I learned that Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line was based on actual events in India. Anappara was a journalist in India for many years, reporting on children's issues. That knowledge and experience brings the book alive.
I laughed and yes, I cried. But I truly enjoyed this book. (And learned quite a bit) Here's an excerpt of Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line.
A statistic from Anappara's research: 180 children go missing each day in India. Only 1 in 3 will ever be found.