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Witness the Nightby Kishwar Desai
Synopses & Reviews
Winner of the Costa First Novel Award — a dazzling mystery that takes readers into the heart of India.
In a small town in northern India, a house still smolders from a devastating fire. Inside a young girl is found severely beaten and barely alive, along with the lifeless bodies of thirteen people. Inexplicably, the local police accuse the girl of the murders. But Simran Singh, an independent-minded, unconventional social worker, is convinced of the girl's innocence. As Simran goes against the authorities to seek out the truth, she discovers a terrifying web of deceit that will change her forever. Seamlessly weaving themes of sexism, police corruption, and infanticide, this captivating mystery plunges readers into the thrilling heart of modern India.
"Simran Singh is a middle-aged, unmarried social worker, who has returned to her Punjabi hometown in hopes of helping 14-year-old Durga, who stands accused of murdering 13 members of her family. Simran works hard to buck the stereotypes of Indian women, which is noble if not awfully tiresome for the reader, who is reminded every few pages of her smoking, drinking, and unlikely marital status. Then there's Durga, a possible lesbian who, growing up, had sexual encounters with her older sister, and who is similarly so busy refusing compartmentalization that she fails to become a real human character. While Desai's valiant attempts to renounce police corruption, female infanticide, and general misogyny should not be dismissed, Simran's running inner monologue relentlessly echoes this agenda: 'When I think there has been a miscarriage of justice, I get into the system, meet everyone, represent no one, and try and get to the truth.' Though suspense builds over the course of the novel, when the truth surfaces, it's so implausible that it's hard to care. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“A thought-provoking tale.” The Guardian (UK)
“Riveting, slow-burn murder mystery in which the new and the old India collide head on, as Desai's ballsy, maverick, and thoroughly modern heroine, Simran Singh, reveals a shocking twist on one of India's ugliest traditions.” M. J. McGrath, author of White Heat
“We were thrilled and exhilarated by this stunning debut. Just like her feisty main character, Desai has fearlessly blown the lid on the problems that simmer under the surface of modern-day India.” The Costa Award Judges
“Witness the Night is an important novel with a compelling mystery at its heart. Simran Singh, in particular, is a terrific protagonist — the perfect guide on what is a dark and unsettling journey. Desai deserves a wide readership to go with the accolades she has already accumulated. This is a novel of genuine accomplishment.” Simon Lelic, author of A Thousand Cuts and The Child Who
In a small town in the heart of India, a young girl is found tied to a bed inside a townhouse where thirteen people lie dead. The girl is alive, but she has been beaten and abused. She is held in the local prison, awaiting interrogation for the murders she is believed by the local people to have committed. Visiting social worker Simran attempts to break through the girl's mute trance to find out what happened that terrible night. As she uncovers more and more, Simran realizes that she is caught in the middle of a terrifying reality, where the unwanted female offspring of families are routinely disposed of. Brilliantly atmospheric, hauntingly real, this is a major debut from an exciting new author.
About the Author
Kishwar Desai is the author of the nonfiction book Darlingji: The True Love Story of Nargis and Sunil Dutt. She lives in London.
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