Bollywood Storm: Book I: New York
Bollywood Storm is a lyrical and mystical murder mystery, set in Bollywood-style.
Elanna Forsythe George is a Boston born, New York forensic scientist who takes on only cold cases, stone cold dead cases. She solves mysteries in unusual ways with her accidentally acquired, para-mystical abilities. Her cases come to her a few years after high-powered mainstream investigations, police and legal proceedings have all failed, and there's a dead end. But she doesn't take every case.
Book I: New York Elanna is hired by the Bollywood starlet Simryn Gill to reopen the case of Rajesh Sharma, a Bollywood director who died of a supposed heart attack two years previous. Although it appears a simple heart attack, there is no drama, no gossip and no controversy anywhere in the Bollywood media. Somewhere, in that odd, conspicuous silence, Elanna smells a big rat.
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Bollywood Storm, Book I: New York, by N K Johel,
is, as the title suggests, the first book of a two-book novel. It features Elanna Forsythe George, a tough, canny New York forensic scientist who solves crimes in a very unorthodox way. She employs her psychic powers to travel to and commune with other spiritual dimensions. She is, in her own words, a “psycho-phenomenic gangbuster. A nether-worldly cowboy.” She has the unique power to become beings from these other planes of existence. They possess her and tell her what she needs to know in order to solve crimes. Or do they? For even spirits can sometimes deceive.
Rajesh Sharma, a very wealthy and powerful Bollywood director, dies suddenly of a mysterious heart attack. Then, one by one, his illegitimate children start turning up dead, also under suspicious circumstances. To solve these mysteries, Elanna delves into the dark underbelly of greed, corruption and ruthless ambition lurking beneath Bollywood’s glitz and glamor. In the process, she is drawn into the lush, dizzying worlds of South Asian and Native American spiritualities, the paranormal, shamanism, and much more.
As one of the characters tells Elanna,”We desi’s (natives of India)don’t tell a story straight out. We don’t want to miss any details. Therefore, we must tell each story slowly. With flavor. With flourish. Capturing every nuance.” In keeping with this tradition, Johel often takes leisurely excursions to describe in sensuous detail such flourishes as the taste of chocolate or Elanna’s rituals of bathing or dressing for a Bollywood premiere. To some Western readers used to quicker-paced mysteries, such passages may take some getting used to. But it’s important to keep in mind that Bollywood Storm is not your standard whodunit mystery but rather a journey into mysterious worlds. Johel does an admirable job in capturing the fleeting textures, nuances, tastes, smells, and sounds of these worlds as Elanna winds her way through them. And these excursions are more than compensated for with frequent moments of heart-pounding action and suspense. It’s fascinating being introduced to a different narrative style than one is used to, particularly in a mystery. This different style only adds to the book’s exotic allure.
If I have any criticism of the book, it is that a glossary or index of terms and of characters’ names would have come in very handy. As one would expect, the vocabulary is quite exotic, and although Johel is careful to define and describe these terms and names with their first appearance in the text, I found myself often leafing back through already-read pages to refresh my memory. But this is a minor quibble. And a sense of disorientation is not always a bad thing.
More than anything else, this book reminded me of a Bollywood musical, which is appropriate, given the title and subject matter. Like the musicals, Book I is a rich, spicy masala of action, suspense, noir crime thriller, music, song, dance, comedy and romance, the paranormal and various religious and spiritual traditions, all painted in a full multicultural palette, to keep readers fully entertained.
This being the first book of a two-book novel, no mysteries are fully resolved or explained here, but enough tantalizing clues are dropped along the way to keep the reader eager to follow Elanna as she leaves, at the end of the book, for further crime-solving adventures in Mumbai.
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