(Paperback | ISBN 9789388326094 | 240 pp | Oct 2018)
A young man is found dead in the toilet of Matunga Road railway station, his stomach ripped open. Retired journalist Peter Fernandes joins the investigation with his friend, Inspector Jende, and discovers a world of secret desire, greed and despair—a world that he fears his son may be a part of. Driven as much by fear and empathy as by curiosity about men who seek men, Peter tries to track down the killer, with some help from the flamboyant Leslie Siqueira, his guide to an alternate universe.
‘A murder mystery, gory psychological thriller and social commentary rolled up in one, Murder in Mahim dazzles with nuance, empathy and a stellar cast of characters, not least of which is the city of Mumbai itself.’—Harsimran Gill, Scroll.in
[Murder in Mahim] takes readers to the gay addas of Mumbai, such as the Matunga Road station toilets, with an incisiveness that, as Pinto writes, would make each individual hair stand upon your head the Mumbai of the book is that of Jeet Thayil's Narcopolis and Ashok Banker's Vertigo, two classics between which this one slides in neatly on the shelf. This is possibly as close to literary fiction as the Subcontinental detective novel has got in the last few years.
You can read Jerry Pinto's latest novel as a noir mystery that could only be set in Mumbai, a city upon which darkness sets but cannot completely settle. Or you could read it as a heartbroken, searching political study about the people that are sucked in and spat out by the city's dark fissures. At its best, the novel can be read and enjoyed as a potent, deft mixture of both, with a tremendous amount of compassion engulfing but never completely overwhelming the voyeuristic, fearful thrill of a murder mystery.
At the beginning of Jerry Pinto's tightly written crime novel, a physical trainer is found dead, with a gash in his side and minus a kidney, in a public toilet in matungaa locale for clandestine gay sex. As more bodies pile up-retired journalist Peter teams up with Inspector Jende (shades of the legendary Madhukar Zende here) to track down the killer. A brief 232 pages, it is the kind of book where you read five sentences, stop, re-read them because you think you've missed something, and then mic-test one of the lines. Then this mic-testing nonsense just takes over your life. Pinto has a superb ear for variation, and social anxiety, and the ways in which people shuffle between what they are thinking and what they want to say.
Pinto describes the city with the understatement of a poet. We feel the grime of the railway platforms, the impatient traffic, the different kinds of neighbourhoods and homes. It's a book one can finish quickly, it took me two sittings, and that hasn't happened in a while and then go back to savour again at leisure, a quality few crime novels have
The novel is a ride through the underbelly of Mumbai shadowy, seedy, a world where darkness reigns as men seek out men, money changes hands, contracts are made and broken, and love exists in pockets of desperation and need. It is a world of blackmail, revenge and desolation. As in all his previous works, what shines out is the reality of Mumbai, a city that has a life of its own, pulsating in the teeming millions that walk through its streets.
In the hands of observant writers, crime fiction becomes a study of society and its collective failure. To that end, Murder in Mahim is a novel about crime and retribution. But, beyond that, it is a story of rage and sorrow. It is also a tale of family ties, friendship and empathy, those quiet virtues gently ebbing from middle-class life that Pinto is so good at decoding.
-The Indian Express
A brooding cover sets the pace for a riveting tale of life outside the pale of heterosexual relationships. Welcome to the metropolis that the novelist knows like the back of his hand. It's a place where Peter D'Souza follows his old friend, Inspector Jende, to find the underbelly of love, desire and blackmail where men seek out other men, it's a treat to be taken by the hand through the labyrinth of a gripping murder mystery while exploring relationships in families and amongst friends. A good read, best done, preferably, in one sitting.
-The New Indian Express
The novel opens inside a grimy men's toilet at Matunga railway station, used as cover for making a quick buck. A gruesome cold-blooded murder here slowly unravels a murky tale of prostitution, homosexuality, extortion and police corruption. As Pinto's story navigates through the familiar alleys of Colaba, Bandra and Mahim, recreating the melancholic sounds and smells of crime, poverty and death, you can't help but relate to this monster of a character-the city [of Mumbai].