Subhomicidal misdeeds on a South Indian plantation.
Everything but murder, it seems, has gone wrong at the Kerala estate of Indian-American photographer Anita Ray’s great-aunt, Punnu Chellamma. First her granddaughter Surya, Anita’s cousin-sister, fails to return from her latest extended trip abroad. There’s no record that Surya even arrived at the airport, and she hasn’t phoned to say where she is. When Anita and her Auntie Meena, the proprietor of the storied Hotel Delite (Under the Eye of Kali, 2010, etc.), pay a visit to the estate to see if they can help, they learn that Gauri, a longtime family maidservant, has been falling into trances. Is she possessed, as she serenely assures them, by the goddess Bhagavati, and if so, what can be done for her? An exorcism ordered by Konan, the family astrologer, is less successful at ending Gauri’s trances than at arousing Anita’s suspicions of Konan and his associates—especially after Bindu, the cook’s assistant, is attacked and left for dead, and Anita herself is garroted by an assailant who tells her she should have stayed home. Why have so many of the estate’s sacred images been sent away to be treated for “bronze disease,” which amounts to little more than the marks of routine handling? And what does all this disruption have to do with Surya’s worrisome disappearance?
Nonstop but low-level malfeasance, conscientious sleuthing and—by far the best feature—an unruffled look at life on a South Indian country plantation where even outrageous events aren’t that far from the norm.