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Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara

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When children start going missing in an Indian slum it’s down to 9 year old Jia and his friends to find them but are they capable of this mammoth task…

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara
Published in: 2020
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: [★★★]

This ARC was provided by Random House UK (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis from Goodreads: Three friends venture into the most dangerous corners of a sprawling Indian city to find their missing classmate.

Down market lanes crammed with too many people, dogs, and rickshaws, past stalls that smell of cardamom and sizzling oil, below a smoggy sky that doesn’t let through a single blade of sunlight, and all the way at the end of the Purple metro line lies a jumble of tin-roofed homes where nine-year-old Jai lives with his family. From his doorway, he can spot the glittering lights of the city’s fancy high-rises, and though his mother works as a maid in one, to him they seem a thousand miles away.

Jai drools outside sweet shops, watches too many reality police shows, and considers himself to be smarter than his friends Pari (though she gets the best grades) and Faiz (though Faiz has an actual job). When a classmate goes missing, Jai decides to use the crime-solving skills he has picked up from TV to find him. He asks Pari and Faiz to be his assistants, and together they draw up lists of people to interview and places to visit.

But what begins as a game turns sinister as other children start disappearing from their neighborhood. Jai, Pari, and Faiz have to confront terrified parents, an indifferent police force, and rumors of soul-snatching djinns. As the disappearances edge ever closer to home, the lives of Jai and his friends will never be the same again.

Drawing on real incidents and a spate of disappearances in metropolitan India.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: This is a book about the overlooked people living in sprawling slums & shantytowns (basti) in India. The people that the authorities would like you to believe are all thieves or beggars but as this book shows that is not the case. The people the reader is engaged with are parents who work hard for long hours to provide for their families; children who go to school and who all have their own ambitions, passions and ideas; friends who are there for each other in times of trouble and a community simmering close to boiling point ready to boil over if the authorities keep neglecting them.

Through the eyes of 9 year old Jai we see beyond the surface, we see the vibrant market place, we see into the homes of families and we see the legends and ghost stories that grow up among the children based on local celebrities and events. The basti really comes to life as do the people living in it.

I loved the children and seeing the world through their eyes which are still clouded with innocence. At the same time the events that take place are shocking and they are made all the more shocking because they are actually based on true events.

As the author says in the afterword: “Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line is about the children, and them alone. I wrote this novel to challenge the notion that they could be reduced to statistics. I wrote this so that we are reminded of the faces behind the numbers.”

I can honestly say I have been thoroughly reminded of the faces behind the numbers.

Some of my favourite quotes:

“Maybe Pari is so quick at coming up with lies because she has read many books and has all their stories in her head”

“What was God-given couldn’t be mere imperfection: it was a gift.”

“The good and back thing about living in a basti is that news flies into your ears whether you want it to or not.”

“The rich think they can buy anything, even us.”

“The problem…is that policeman like you are suspicious of maids and carpenters and plumbers”

Who would like this? I would recommend this to anyone who likes their fiction to have a heart, to anyone who wants a different view of India and to anyone who likes seeing the world through the eyes of a child.

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? 

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