Nair, Anita. “Chain of Custody”, (The Inspector Gowda Series), Bitter Lemon Press, 2016.
A Page-turning Thriller
Thirteen-year-old Nandita has disappeared at the same time that a layer was murdered in Bangalore. Inspector Gowda is on the case and he senses that it is a high profile one. He soon finds himself involved in a child trafficking business. He is forced to deal with laws that are insensitive and government officials who are disinterested and indifferent to what is going on. Witnesses or unwilling to cooperate with the investigation and time is of the essence. Nandini has been taken by one of the most dangerous and depraved rings of criminals in the country.
As much as I like a good mystery, this is not a book for everyone because it candidly deals with child sex trade in southern India. Be that as it may, it should not come as a surprise that child sex trade can exist anywhere.
Inspector Borei Gowda is living with his college sweetheart Urmila and this is an extramarital affair that he wants no one to know about. With the brutal death of Dr. Rathore, a lawyer, Gowda is called in to take the case. At just about the same time, Gowda’s maid’s daughter, Nandini never returned home from school. Inspector Gowda is aware of the crime that is at play in the city but it is uncontrollable. Gowda’s personal seems to be collapsing in front of him and he seems to be constantly trying to balance his professional life and personal life.
Gowda is a good inspector but who bosses try to find ways to control him. He has to deal with deal with red tape, orders and the egos of his bosses and politicians as well as take care of what is happening in the world of crime. Author Anita Nair writes about what is going on and she hides nothing. She writes of children being forced into the sex trade and she shares their terrible and heartbreaking stories. She tells us that even when some of the children are rescued that their lives will never be normal. It is indeed possible that some of them will grow into the kind of people that they, themselves, have come to resent.
We understand quickly that Gowda is not the nicest guy in the world but he is a skilled detective and that’s what his job calls for. Child trafficking is a horror and Nair certainly shows that to us here. Anita Nair brings us this story in all of its chilling detail and there are times we have to stop reading just to be able to take everything in.
We see Bengalur as a world where politicians, policemen, real-estate dealers and green grocers trap children from places as far away and as far apart as Mumbai and Bangladesh, and use and abuse their bodies to make money. It is not an easy topic to read about but we need to know that it exists.
Neelgubbi in Bengalur was once a rural hamlet but has now been taken over by urbanization and the greed of real-estate developers Gowda is well aware of the gambling, betting, bootlegging, drug dealing, rape, murder, burglary, prostitution, and illegal possession of fire arms going on but his hands are tied by those above him.
When Nandita’s disappearance, everything changed, as Gowda and his team work against time to find her. This is, however, not the story of one missing child but rather the story of many missing children. There is Moina, a Bangladeshi girl forced to submit to multiple “customers”, Krishna, a child exploiter but then he is just re-enacting how he was treated as a boy and others. We become privy to the thoughts of both the oppressed and the oppressor. What this does is make these characters human but flawed. often evil, but human.
This is the second book in the Gowda series but it is not necessary to have read the first book however, I understand that it will help the reader to be able to appreciate Gowda’s personality better by also reading “Cut Like Wound”.