You Beneath Your Skin by Damyanti Biswas #BookReview #BlogTour


It’s a dark, smog-choked New Delhi winter. Indian American single mother Anjali Morgan juggles her job as a psychiatrist with caring for her autistic teenage son. She is in a long-standing affair with ambitious police commissioner Jatin Bhatt – an irresistible attraction that could destroy both their lives.

Jatin’s home life is falling apart: his handsome and charming son is not all he appears to be, and his wife has too much on her plate to pay attention to either husband or son. But Jatin refuses to listen to anyone, not even the sister to whom he is deeply attached.

Across the city there is a crime spree: slum women found stuffed in trash bags, faces and bodies disfigured by acid. And as events spiral out of control Anjali is horrifyingly at the centre of it all …

In a sordid world of poverty, misogyny, and political corruption, Jatin must make some hard choices. But what he unearths is only the tip of the iceberg. Together with Anjali he must confront old wounds and uncover long-held secrets before it is too late.

It's my pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for You Beneath Your Skin today. Many thanks to Damyanti Biswas and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my digital copy of the novel.

You Beneath Your Skin is a little slower paced than a lot of the crime fiction I read but this is an important story told with sensitivity and insight. The characters may be fictional but their experiences reflect very real issues which desperately need to be highlighted and talked about.
The book opens with Anjali Morgan desperately searching for her teenage son; Nikhil is autistic and has jumped out of a moving car in a busy shopping mall. Throughout the novel, Anjali's desire to protect Nikhil is a constant regardless of how difficult life becomes for her. Although I don't have direct experience of living with an autistic family member, I have friends who do and I have worked with autistic children, and from my own observations I feel that this is an empathetic and realistic portrayal of the challenges faced by autistic people and their families.
Anjali's history is slowly revealed as the book progresses and it is explained how she comes to be in a long-term affair with Jatin Bhatt and living in the same house as his sister and her friend, Maya. It took me a little while to work out how the various characters all fitted together but this isn't meant as a criticism as I felt it was an accurate picture of the importance of the institution of the family in India. Likewise, although I didn't always quite understand the political machinations within the police force, the corruption is only too obvious and it's understandable why somebody like Jatin has to forgo his principles to work within the system.
Jatin's female assistant, Kusum discovers that slum women are being horrifically assaulted and murdered before their painfully disfigured bodies are left stuffed into trash bags. That Jatin's first thought is how this case might further his career is a sad indictment of how little these women are valued. He enlists the help of Anjali as she works in the local hospital, meaning she is able to report back on the distressing post-mortem of one of the women, and Maya who has a small detective agency. When the storyline takes a shocking turn, this domestic crime novel becomes even more harrowing and the hospital scenes which really emphasise what an acid attack does to a person hit hard. There are parts of You Beneath Your Skin which are difficult to read but this is the reality for those - and it is most often women - who suffer acid attacks. The latter part of the book becomes really quite tense as those involved try to deal with the awful revelations and what the terrible repercussions mean for them all.
There has been some criticism about violence towards women in crime fiction but books like You Beneath Your Skin demonstrate why there is such a need for authors to write about the horrific assaults perpetrated on women when a misogynistic, patriarchal society still permits men to perpetrate these acts by allowing them to frequently escape proper justice. This dark, atmospheric novel is an authentic, unsentimental portrayal of some of the pressing issues facing cities like New  Delhi which are trying to look to the future while still dealing with the attitudes of the past. There is warmth, love and kindness here too and for all the horror, the strength of the women within these pages also inspires hope. You Beneath Your Skin is a brave, poignant and memorable read.

The author's note at the end of You Beneath Your Skin explains that most acid attack survivors in India belong to the underprivileged communities, and they need immediate financial, legal and medical support. All author proceeds for the book go to Chhanv Foundation (@stopacidattacks) who work to bring justice and aid to acid attack survivors, and to Project WHY (@projectwhydelhi) which supports the education of children in India and believes every child should have the right to an education and to a safe childhood.

Watch the book trailer for You Beneath Your Skin.

You Beneath Your Skin is published by Simon & Schuster India and can be purchased from Amazon UK.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Damyanti supports Project WHY, a programme that provides quality education to underprivileged children in New Delhi. Her short stories have been published in magazines in the USA, UK and Asia. She also helps edit the Forge Literary Magazine. Her work is represented by Ed Wilson from the Johnson & Alcock agency.
Damyanti’s reading journey started at the age of 3, and the obsession continues. Her most precious memories of her childhood are of summers spent reading books of all sizes, for all ages. Her favorite authors form a never-ending list that features names like Truman Capote, Kate Atkinson, Lionel Shriver, Margaret Atwood, Anton Chekov, Tana French, Jodi Picoult, Jo Nesbø, Amy Hempel, Toni Morisson, Gustave Flaubert, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Even as a child, she has always been intrigued by the lives behind the faces, the contrasts between appearances and reality. Most of her stories happen at a point of crisis in a character’s life because it is then that the layers peel away and the real person emerges. She’s been a reader of true crime, and books like ‘In Cold Blood’ by Truman Capote inspired her to write crime stories — narratives that would document the unravelling of characters, their relationships, and the society they are part of.
Apart from being a novelist, Damyanti is a blogger, animal-lover and a spiritualist. Though she loves dogs, her travel schedule doesn’t permit her one. She contents herself with keeping fish and is able to take care of them enough for them not to die on her watch. Except once, when someone happened to turn off the oxygen pump. There will be a story about it someday.
Damyanti enjoys working out of busy cafes and food courts, as that helps her focus. When not pottering about with her plants or her aquariums, you can find her nose deep in a book or baking up a storm.
Her ambition has always been to live in a home with more books than anything else, and she continues to work towards that.


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