Title: The Matsya Curse
Author: Shweta Taneja
The Matsya Curse is the second novel in Shweta Taneja’s ‘Anantya Tantrist Mystery’ series. Anantya, the sassy detective, is back with her personal brand of swagger and ruthlessness. As is her norm, she solves supernatural crimes at night, sleeps during the day, and roams through a world filled with tantric concepts and beings from Indian mythology and folklore. While hurling colourful expletives and having casual sex — with not just humans — Anantya fights like a hurricane and she’s a force to reckon with.
The book opens with Anantya waking up in her bed in her forlorn haveli with a vinaat, a supernatural being. How she got there unfolds in breakneck flashbacks told in the cadences and vocabulary of the tantrist herself. Within the next few pages we find her in a five-star hotel where she is summoned to oversee a case. Unfortunately, the case in question is way beyond her expertise. She finds herself helpless and before her very eyes a nishada melts to death. On the same night an ancient demonologist is murdered.
Anantya follows a non-existent trail on to the streets of Delhi and Banaras with her friends Inspector Madhu and Shukra. Armed with septifocals, yugma locket, blade and a plethora of mantras, she takes it upon herself to rescue the Nishadas who have been downgraded to the category of pashus (read unintelligent pets) by the Tantrik Association. She also has to bring Neel, her ex boyfriend, to his senses who is back from the dead and wants to kill her.
Shweta has crafted a world of some damaged yet lively characters whose idiosyncrasies lead them to collide and ricochet as the story progresses. Savage tantriks, corrupt officials, a medley of assorted supernatural beings, a few hapless civilians and some spineless gods mix it up in New Delhi. However, her supernatural world has started to uncannily resemble the world of the famous Men In Black series with sups being given human identities and permission to live in the city. This wasn’t there in the first installment and hence Shweta’s supernatural Delhi had come across as a fresh idea. I think, it would have added to the novelty of this series if she had kept it the way it was initially and I would have admired her ingenuity even more. Other than this, I liked the way the story progressed.
Substantial, three-dimensional characterization is Shweta’s strongest suit. Be it the protagonists or the minor characters, everyone is crafted with utmost care so much so that even after the stories end, the characters live on with the readers for a long time. One such character is Shukra who happens to be my favourite. He reminds me of Hank Mccoy (Beast) from the X-men series and Bruce Banner (Hulk). There’s an unspoken sexual tension between him and Anantya which draws out potently the vulnerable side of Shukra. They perfectly contrast each other and through their characters, and those of the others, Shweta questions societal notions of gender constructs, class, and class.
By turns grim and giddy, this is a good read and I’m as usual looking forward to reading the next novel from the author’s kitty.
About the Author
Shweta Taneja is a bestselling author based in Bangalore. She’s been a Charles Wallace India Writing Fellow, a roadie for an amateur band, a volunteer for a tree festival and a cashier at a play. Her ambition is to writes stories that challenge preconceived notions and prejudices. To attain it, she regularly drinks Makaibari tea, hogs on popular occult books and shows and asks all sorts of unseemly questions to ghosts, half-dead plants and recently, drongos.
The Matsya Curse is the second of the Anantya Tantrist mysteries. The first one, Cult of Chaos (2014), has found a cult following owing to its name. Her other novels include How to Steal a Ghost @Manipal (2016) and The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong (2013). She has also written two graphic novels: The Skull Rosary (2013) which was shortlisted for Best Writer Award at Comic Con India and Krishna: Defender of Dharma (2012) which is part of CBSE’s must-read list for a reason she can’t fathom.
I'd like to thank the author for letting me review the book. I do hope you end up liking the book when you read it. Thank you so much for stopping by, and happy reading!
* I received a review copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.
** Picture courtesy: Amazon.in