Anita Nair
HarperCollins India
December 2, 2023
Final Verdict

About the Author

ANITA NAIR is one of India’s most acclaimed authors whose oeuvre ranges from literary fiction to noir to poetry to children’s literature to translation. Her books have been translated into thirty-two languages around the world and have been adapted for audio, the stage and the screen. She is the recipient of several prizes and honours including the Central Sahitya Akademi award, the Crossword Prize and the National Film Award.

Founder of the creative writing mentorship programme Anita’s Attic which has mentored over 125 writers, Anita Nair is also a High-Profile Supporter of the UNHCR.

Anita Nair’s new novel is Hot Stage, third in the Borei Gowda noir series.
Other Works By Anita Nair
The Better Man
Ladies Coupe
Lessons in Forgetting
Cut Like Wound
Idris : Keeper of the Light

Book Review: Hot Stage by Anita Nair

Sneha Pathak reviews Anita Nair’s Hot Stage (Published by Harper Collins, 2024)

Certain books, for reasons I don’t yet understand, demand that you read them. They won’t leave you alone till you get your hands on them and finish hearing what they have to say. Take Anita Nair’s Hot Stage for instance. As a mystery/thriller lover, of course, I knew that Anita Nair had written two previous books in the Borei Gowda series.

Did I ever feel inclined to read them? No. Hot Stage, though, was a different matter. I wanted to read the book ever since I saw it on Instagram and achieved peace only once the deed had been done.

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The Story

Hot Stage is a police procedural which centres on the murder of the elderly professor Mudgood in Bangalore. The professor, a well-known critic of the right wing, has ruffled many feathers through his words. The past two years, especially, have seen him becoming more and more vitriolic towards anyone who doesn’t seem to align with his ideology.

It is no wonder, then, that Gowda’s superiors consider this to be a political killing and want it handled that way. ACP Gowda, however, is far from convinced that the professor’s death has this straightforward solution and looks into all aspects of the professor’s life with the help of his small but dedicated team even as they face pressure from various sources within the department to fall into line with the political murder angle. 

Given that the book is a police procedural, we get a glimpse of how Gowda and his teammates painstakingly work to solve a case, doing the best they can within the framework and regulations of the department. Alongside, there are also various impediments such as superiors whose loyalties lie elsewhere and who’d like to see Gowda fail, moles in the team who are all too ready to share information with other teams, and the rich and the influential who aren’t too happy to come under the police scrutiny.

Then there’s Gowda’s personal life and its complications. Whether it’s his increasingly fraught relationship with his lover Urmila or the fact that his elderly father has suddenly decided to spend a few days with him, Gowda’s life is no piece of cake. And then there are the new tenants upstairs whom everyone in his family seems to like but Gowda cannot.

Anita Nair’s Writing

Hot Stage moves through these labyrinths and gives its readers a taste of the posh bungalows as well as the underbelly of Bangalore as they both collide as the plot unspools under Gowda and his team’s watchful eyes. The setting, the characters and the everyday life that permeates the pages of the novel make the book feel very much rooted in reality.

The pace of the novel stays even throughout and even though at four hundred plus pages it is longer than most books of its genre, it reads smoothly. Because we see most of the events unfold through Gowda’s eyes, the insertion of his personal life is organic and makes Gowda more than a two-dimensional policeman for the readers.

The moments between Gowda and his father will resonate with readers with elderly parents.  But Anita Nair has a deft hand with all her characters and even others like ASI Ratna, SI Santosh, and SI Aqthar leave a mark on the reader’s consciousness long after the book is over. Even a reader meeting Gowda for the first time might find themselves invested in his personal life like I did. 

The brief references to the last two cases that made the basis of the previous two books are tantalizing and might encourage the reader to read them as well, especially to know how Gowda has changed in the course of his career. A book that balances plot with character, Hot Stage is definitely recommended.

Have you read this thrilling murder mystery? What do you think of it? Drop a comment below and let us know!

Sneha Pathak

Sneha Pathak

Sneha Pathak loves reading over everything else and has a degree in English Literature. She loves discovering new authors and new books. Her favourite genre is mystery/detective fiction, but she reads all genres with equal gusto and enjoys writing about them. When not reading, she can be found book-browsing.

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