Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line

Random. Feb. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9780593129197. $27; pap.ISBN 9780593129203.
DEBUT Life in India’s basti (slums) has rules all its own—about toilets, water, hierarchies, privileges. The police either ignore the inhabitants, making crime reporting meaningless, or threaten to raze their ramshackle homes. Meanwhile, some 180 children go missing in India every day, reports British-based Indian journalist Anappara in an interview at book’s end. As she explains, her debut originated from her “anger at a system that failed the very people it was supposed to protect” and desire to return “their agency to the children who are caught up in a horrific, chaotic situation.” Mischievous Jai, admirably well-read Pari, and cautious Faiz are nine-year-old basti children. Jai has one of the few comparatively happy, intact families in their community—both parents are employed, and an older sister is a local track star. He watches too much true-crime TV, but that habit just might serve him well when one schoolmate, and then another, disappears—and authorities turn a blind eye. The missing multiply, and the tenacious young trio pursue what the police scorn.
VERDICT Anappara’s journalist training helps create a keen sense of place populated by vivid characters, but her fiction skills aren’t quite as honed, and the narrative drags, proving more unsatisfying than edifying. For larger collections. [See Prepub Alert, 8/5/19.]
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