Review by Joey Madia
“Buy me a drink, Becker, and I will tell you a story.” (Part Three)
Spanning four decades in three parts, Tom Vater’s Kolkata Noir is a good old-fashioned detective story with the addition of a love affair never enacted and abundant socioeconomic and political commentary.
Part One takes place in 1999 in Calcutta, India. Although thoughts of a hellish place and the Broadway revue Oh! Calcutta! immediately come to mind, the author tells us in the Acknowledgments that “[d]uring the Raj [the period of British rule from 1858 until the independence of India in 1947], Calcutta was the world’s second most economically powerful metropolis.”
The story opens with the hunt for suspects in the brutal back-alley murder of Abir Roychowdhury, a powerful and wealthy man whose wife, Paulami, a socialite and well known in her own right, is unfaithful with two men, one of whom—an Englishman—is the principle suspect.
Leading the investigation is Inspectress Madhurima Mitra, whose great uncle was a celebrated detective 50 years earlier. She’s under pressure on multiple fronts: she’s a woman, she has a lineage nearly impossible to live up to, and both the local authorities and the British want the murder wrapped up as neatly and as quickly as possible.
Mitra seeks out a grizzled, jaded photographer named Becker, who is acquainted with the chief suspect, Richard Dunlop, who has gone missing. No mystery to the reader here—he is one of the men having an affair with Paulami. The other man is Abir’s brother, Kishore. Continue reading