Book Review: The Lost Woman of Santacruz by VIjay Medtia



The lost woman of Santacruz by Vijay Medtia. Short Review by Pete Kalu

Police Inspector Ajay Shaktawat of the Mumbai police force is in dire straits with his personal life. The last thing he needs is a cop-killer case. That’s what lands on his desk. With politicians, press, Dehli Special Branch and others breathing down his neck, Shaktawat’s plan to ease off work in order to rescue his relationship with his wife, rekindle bonds with his children and generally become a nicer person, fades amidst a welter of what-might-have-beens and if-onlys. Meanwhile, out there in the big, brawling city, retired police officers keep getting murdered.

A rambunctious, detective story, one of the best I’ve read this year, Medtia achieves that rare feat of simultaneously yoking  the broad existential question of how we achieve intimacy in the anonymising, dehumanising modern city, with the page-turning suspense and joy (yes, joy!) of a well-crafted, detective story.  The lost woman of Santacruz exhibits a masterful economy of description, and perfectly pitched dialogue; these are synched and filtered through the compelling internal voice of the main character through whose eyes we see the action.  It is this voice which – more than any other element  – carries the brilliance of Medtia as fiction writer: it elaborates a thoughtful, philosophical and generous soul – intellectually curious, pragmatic yet empathetic of human frailties, and a smarter psychologist than the other professionals around him.  I read The lost woman of Santacruz cover to cover. Police Inspector Ajay Shaktawat is a fascinating creation.  I suspect he is here to stay.