Review copy provided by publisher
Simon & Schuster, June 2013
Synopsis- Goa, south India. A beautiful holiday hideaway where hippies and backpackers while away the hours. But beneath the clear blue skies lies a dirty secret…Simran Singh is desperate for a break and some time away from her busy job as a social worker-come-crime investigator. And so the unspoilt idyll of Goa seems just the place – white beaches, blue seas and no crime. But when a disturbing video appears on her phone, featuring a young girl being attacked by a group of men, she realises that a darkness festers at the heart of this supposed paradise. And when she discovers out that the girl is Liza Kay, a British teenager who has gone missing, she knows she must act in order to save her.But first Simran must break through the web of lies and dark connections that flourish on these beaches. Everyone, it seems, knows what has happened to the girl but no one is prepared to say. And when more videos appear, and Simran herself is targeted in order to keep her quiet, the paradise soon becomes a living nightmare.
Review- Sea of Innocence is the third novel by Kishwar Desai featuring Indian social worker, Simran Singh. I’m yet to read the first novel, Witness the Night, but I have read Origins of Love, a novel about surrogacy and IVF in India, which was a fascinating read. So when I heard about Desai’s latest novel set in Goa, the beautiful coastal region in South India (where I visited last year) and Simran’s investigation of murders and rapes of foreign women in this area, I knew I’d be in for an interesting read.
Given the subject matter, this novel is not easy to read at times. There are detailed accounts of sexual assaults, but told through the simplistic language of Desai and the matter-of-fact viewpoint of Simran it was easier to stomach. Simran is holidaying in Goa with her adopted sixteen-year old daughter when she is contacted by Amarjit (her ex-boyfriend and) a police officer who is quietly investigating the disappearance of a young British girl, named Liza. The investigation happens to be good timing as Amarjit discovers Simran is already in Goa and makes attempts to convince her to make some enquiries. Simran is reluctant to work on the case as she intends to spend some time with her daughter. But when she receives a video on her phone showing young Liza being sexually assaulted, Simran’s curiosity and empathy are elicited and she begins to make subtle enquiries. One would think that when her daughter and friends get a scare from some local men and Simran receives further anonymous videos that she would shy away from this increasingly dangerous case, but Simran becomes more determined to find out the truth behind Liza’s disappearance. She sends her daughter back to the safety of her mother in Delhi and starts to makes waves in South Goa.
Intrigued by Liza’s evasive sister Marian, manipulated by the local beach vendor and the receipt of anonymous photos and videos, Simran keeps up her investigation. Even when she is drugged and her computer is wiped clean of any evidence, Simran doesn’t give up. Instead she befriends Dennis who teams up with her on the case and together they begin to make many enemies. From an underground drug network, to powerful men preying on foreign girls to a politician who won’t let anyone get in his way of climbing up the ladder, Simran’s investigation gets very interesting.
I slipped easily into the first person viewpoint of Simran as I really enjoy the simplistic language and the passion she shows toward empowering women and uncovering the truth. This novel can easily be read as a standalone, as the only common denominator in the series is Simran but it’s a new location and new case each time. I particularly found interesting the Goan setting in this story, as some of the issues raised in the story I suspected while I was holidaying there last year and some of which I’m glad not to have known. Even though I loved India, Goa wasn’t one of my favourite places and this story certainly doesn’t tempt me to return. Desai continues to write intriguing stories set in India with an interesting and passionate heroine that explores various psychosocial issues facing modern India. I recommend this series and I’m eager to read her first novel, Witness the Night.
“I loved this book!”
Sea of Innocence can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers
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