‘Djinn Patrol’ tale of vanishing children standout debut novel



By Deepa Anappara

(Random House, $27)

Grade: A

A boy who doesn’t fully comprehend the events he’s sucked into is the narrator of Deepa Anappara’s dazzling debut novel, now longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. It was inspired by her frustration that, when she was a journalist in India, she couldn’t figure out how to tell the stories of the 180 Indian children who vanish every day.

Jai, 9, lives in a settlement similar to the wasteland depicted in “Slumdog Millionaire.” Because, like all the adults in “Djinn Patrol,” his affectionate folks are distracted by the work they need to do to feed their family, crime-drama-obsessed Jai decides he is the detective to solve the mystery of what’s happening to classmates and neighbors who keep disappearing. It’s an enthralling narrative, grounded in Jai’s growing awareness that fairness does not guide his world and that happy endings are hard to come by.

“What is a whole life?” Jai asks. “If you die when you’re still a child, is your life whole or half or zero?”

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