My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I took a while to write this review because I've been having a tough time trying to reconcile my feelings about The Blue Monsoon. Where The Blue Bar was gripping and easy to love, ending on quite a hopeful note, this one picks up again two years later on a somewhat dreary note. And as the rains and flooding in Mumbai threaten Arnav's case, so does the dreariness sometimes overwhelm the reader.
When I say dreary, I don't mean that the story is slow in any way. It's quite as gripping as The
Blue Bar, maybe even more so because we already know, and are invested in, the main characters. In this one, Arnav is faced by how much he doesn't perceive or understand because he is a high caste man in Indian society; Tara is struggling with her lack of independence due to her high-risk pregnancy and injury; Sita is just trying to do her job without complicated relationships; and in the midst of it all, the deaths--dismembered men with tantric symbols carved in flesh--and threats keep coming. Links to influencers and hopeful politicians again push these cases into the limelight... and maybe there's a point where Arnav's weariness seeps through the narrative and makes everything feel too much, too bleak.
In many ways, The Blue Monsoon is a critique on the lingering caste system in India; but more than that, it attempts to show how privilege blinds one to injustices, how affirmative action policies don't quite solve anything (and sometimes makes them worse), and how gender (or rather, being female) exacerbates everything. It's not an easy read by any means, but then again, none of Biswas's books are.
Overall, the Blue Monsoon is a dark, gritty, crime procedural/thriller and probably should come with some trigger warnings. (Some gore, including castration; sexual abuse and harassment; difficult pregnancies; discrimination/slurs against transwomen)
Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from Thomas & Mercer via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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