22 June, 2016

#SpecialFeature :: Moitrayee Bhaduri talks about her top 5 Fictional Detectives


*** Special Feature - June 2016 ***

Crime thrillers are irresistible. Whether the focus is on whodunits like ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ or ‘The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side’, action-packed thrillers like ‘The Devotion of Suspect X’ or ‘The Girl in Dragon Tattoo’, serialized dramas resulting in high adrenaline rush like ‘Prison Break’ or ‘The Practice’, I devour them all. The Enid Blyton series on the adventurous ‘Five Find Outers’ will always be a fascinating childhood memory.

For this post, my focus is on detectives from crime-fiction books. Some iconic characters like Holmes, Poirot, and Feluda have had their stories made into movies, serials etc. But like most booklovers, I continue to be attracted to their books.

Here are my top 5 fictional detectives


Miss Marple
Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple is all my all-time favorite detective. I was instantly drawn to her incredible ability to find similarities between people and solve mysteries through common sense. An elderly lady from the small town of St. Mary Mead (a fictional village) who knows more about human nature and murder motives than her more experienced counterparts is intriguing. I like the fine touches by Christie that make her books so visual- Jane Marple’s passion for gardening for instance or the English breakfast complete with scones, and perfectly boiled eggs! 


Sherlock Holmes
The world’s most loved, sharp-witted detective obviously had to be in my top 5. When one wishes to travel to London with the mission of visiting 221B Baker Street (address of Sherlock Holmes), when the stories continue to linger in your mind years after you have read them, when you wonder how he manages to be the master of disguise, the king of forensics, logical reasoning and more – you know you are Sherlocked! Add to that, the creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s magical storytelling that helps you visualize the old-world charm of England. Till date, I continue to be mesmerized by Sherlock Holmes. 


Feluda 
The celebrated Indian detective Feluda (also known as Pradosh Mitter) was created by the legendary Satyajit Ray. Originally written in Bengali, Feluda is super intelligent and perceptive. He believes in using his ‘mogojastro’ (the brain weapon) to solve complex cases. A big fan of Sherlock Holmes, Feluda is seen applauding Holmes in several books. A detective so simple and sharp, Feluda’s cases always lead to a nail-biting finish. He works with a team – the hilarious Jatayu (a crime-thriller author) and the diligent Topshey (Feluda’s cousin). Feluda’s readers range from eight to 80-year-olds and one never tires of reading his stories.


Hercule Poirot
The ace Belgian detective, also created by Agatha Christie, the queen of crime, is another huge favorite. Poirot mysteries keep you on tenterhooks until the end. What I enjoy the most about a Poirot novel is that while I am dying to finish the book, I don’t quite want it to end! Poirot uses my favorite case-solving techniques – facts and ONLY facts. He shows us repeatedly that even the tiniest of evidences can make a big difference. He stands out as the perfectionist and the cleanliness-freak for whom modesty is never the best policy. 

 

Byomkesh Bakshi
Byomkesh Bakshi is another brainy Indian investigator who calls himself a ‘satyanweshi’ (seeker of truth). Written in Bengali by the noted author Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay, Bakshi is a perfect mix of intelligence, common sense, wit, and charm. Unlike other famous detectives, Bakshi is married. Like Holmes, he too works with an assistant but doesn’t quite appreciate the partner’s probing skills. His novels are fast-packed and there is a thrill in the manner he solves the mysteries. The books also give us interesting insights on pre-independent India.

 

Other Stars
There are several other fictional detectives I admire such as Robert Galbraith’s (JK Rowling) Cormoran Strike, Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta, Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus, and Suchitra Bhattacharya’s Mitin Mashi. And how can I forget the low-profile astute priest-detective Father Brown, created by G.K Chesterton. 

If you love crime-fiction, I am sure you have read one or more of these interesting, classic detective stories. 

If you would like to tell us about your favorite detective characters, don’t forget to leave a comment on this post. You can also write to me at moitrayeebhaduri@gmail.com . Happy reading!


About the Author
Moitrayee Bhaduri is a writer, reader, and music enthusiast. She loves reading crime thrillers as much as she enjoys writing them. She adores epic detective characters like Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Feluda, and Byomkesh Bakshi. Since she wanted to read more Indian detective stories with women protagonists, she decided to create the character of Mili Ray. Moitrayee’s first book, The Sinister Silence is an action-packed suspense thriller that introduces private detective Mili Ray, an ex-super cop.  
Published by Srishti Publishers & Distributors, The Sinister Silence has been receiving great response and appreciation from the creative fraternity, booklovers, and the social media. The author has been featured in leading dailies like DNA, Dainik Bhaskar, Hindustan Times, and The Asian Age, as well as on popular online news & blogging sites.
Moitrayee grew up in a close-knit family in Kolkata, the booklover’s paradise. She enjoys dabbling with different forms of writing – technical content writing, copy editing, creative writing, and more. She has worked with leading IT organizations in various writing and people-managerial roles. For now, she is settled in Mumbai, working full-time, and trying to focus on completing her second crime thriller. In her leisure, she enjoys traveling, watching cricket, and hanging out with loved ones.


Contact:

About the Book:
When ace software engineer Saahil is found battling for his life on a rainy morning, it looks like a case of attempted suicide. However, Saahil's family strongly denies that possibility and calls in ex-super cop-turned-detective Mili Ray to investigate. While doctors are uncertain about Saahil's survival, the police discover the blood-soaked body of Saahil's colleague Farzad. Why are IT engineers being targeted? Is there a link between these ghastly attacks and Saahil's cutting-edge invention – the PA software?
Ray and her team – Advocate Gatha and ex-army officer Anubhav – dive into this case, which is turning murkier by the hour. Unaware that a conniving assassin is stalking her, Ray races towards a dangerous trap while murderous attacks continue to haunt the IT world. Who is behind these assaults – a jealous co-worker, an IT kingpin, an estranged friend, or someone else? With the killer on the loose, Ray's credibility is at stake...
Set in Mumbai, The Sinister Silence is an edge-of-the-seat thriller that traces detective Mili Ray's journey through a mysterious case that poses new threats every time she inches closer to her goal.


Book Links:


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3 Paperback of The Sinister Silence by Moitrayee Bhaduri - for Indian Residents Only
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21 June, 2016

#BookReview :: May Queen Killers by Lorna Dounaeva


A beauty queen is missing...

Sapphire Butterworth disappears in the middle of May Day celebrations in the quiet village of Fleckford. Mystery writer, Jock Skone is one of the last to see Sapphire and determined to use his detective skills to find her. But Jock quickly discovers that Sapphire’s friends do not know her as well as they thought they did. And Sapphire is not the first May Queen to go missing. Is there a deeper reason why Sapphire wanted the title so badly? Does she know more about the May Queen Killers than she’s been letting on? 


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From the blurb of the book, the protagonist reminded me of Ariadne Oliver. Richard Castle came to my mind as well but being an Agatha Christie fan through and through, I just thought of Ariadne Oliver first.

Fleckford seems to be a quaint and quiet little village until Sapphire goes missing. It seems impossible for someone to simply disappear in the hubbub of May Day celebrations. And since our protagonist, Jock – a mystery writer, was one of the last people to see her, he decides to use his skill set to investigate the disappearance. He soon discovers that there was more to the missing girl than people knew and that this wasn’t the first disappearance either. The further Jock delves into this mystery, the more he learns about the town and its people. Not everything is as it had seemed at the beginning and there are secrets lurking at every corner. Will Jock be able to solve the mystery while avoiding suspicion himself? 

The thing that stands out in this book is the plot. The author has put in a great deal of effort in setting it up with a good number of red herrings. The author made me pay attention to every bit of information with the way they were delivered. They all felt to be important bits, when clearly some were just crumbs to lead the readers astray. While this was a good thing as it kept us curious throughout, it also turned out to be bit disappointing since some of the information that we were looking to know more about turned out to be irrelevant and as such we did not get full closure. I like such conundrums as they make me think a little more than usual about whether it was well done or will only cause trouble for the book with the readers. The author certainly has an interesting style of storytelling. I was literally gobbling everything up and the pace at which the plot moves certainly helps quite a bit. While the major characters are all well fleshed out, I really wished for some more development for some of the other characters who seemed interesting. Jock as a protagonist is an interesting character. His character feels well balanced and while he is no Ariadne Oliver or Richard Castle, he is someone you would like to see/read more about.

To round up, this is a book with more pros than cons and certainly provided me with hours of suspense and entertainment. The author does show some promise and will henceforth be on my ‘watch out for’ list.


Review Copy received from the Author

20 June, 2016

#BookReview :: Destroyer of Worlds (Arkane #8) by J.F. Penn

An ancient weapon threatens the heart of India.

A bomb explodes in the center of London and a fragment of an ancient Hindu sculpture is stolen from the ARKANE Headquarters by a secret organization bent on mass murder. If the sculpture is put together again, it will reveal the key to the Brahmastra, a weapon with the power of a nuclear explosion.

As those they love are threatened, ARKANE agents Morgan Sierra and Jake Timber must search for the pieces of the relic before it can be activated at the Kumbh Mela, the greatest pilgrimage on earth.

In a fast-paced adventure from the slums of Mumbai to the temples of Kolkata, the Taj Mahal in Agra to the killing fields of Rwanda, Morgan and Jake must find the pieces of the sculpture before it’s too late.

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The 8th book in the Arkane series, Destroyer of Worlds can also be read as a standalone novel.

Arkane is a British Government agency that deals with religious and paranormal things and events. Morgan Sierra & Jake Timber are Arkane Agents who are set on a trail of someone who wants to put together a weapon of mass destruction. From a bombing in central London to the breach of Arkane headquarters to the missing piece of a sculpture, the story builds up momentum right from the beginning. As the protagonists follow the clues and the trail of the antagonist, this thriller becomes a chase that spans over a number of countries. Will Morgan & Jake able to catch up to the group in time? Will the devotees go the lengths to gain Goddess Kali’s attention and favour? With so many innocent lives on the line, the members of Arkane don’t have much room for error.

The story takes off right at the beginning and the pace never relents. As a result, I flew through the pages of this book and finished it in one sitting. I love it when thrillers are fast paced and we have to keep up with it. To match it, is the author’s very vivid narrative that creates images in the readers’ minds very easily. Her descriptions of places and settings bring strange new places to life in our minds. It also helps to get a closer look at her characters. I quite liked the characters of Morgan & Jake. They are interesting personalities individually, but it is also fun to see them work together. Morgan is really tenacious. However, I really didn’t buy the motivation of the antagonist. I wish I could say more about it without giving any spoilers. It is just that at no point did the antagonist really scare me or had me believe that Morgan & Jake could possibly fail. I guess what I am trying to say that there was a lack of conviction and challenge there. I still do have a few questions about the leading characters and Arkane which probably has already been talked about in the previous books. The small details and background info always helps in getting close to the story & its characters which is why I usually like reading books in order. If you, as a reader, are not a freak about knowing everything there is to know about the characters then reading this as a standalone will not bother you. 

It is clear from the way the author has set up the places in the book (and also from her bio) that she has travelled widely and has experienced most of the places and cultures herself. Seeing and reading about our culture and mythology through someone else’s experiences and mind is always interesting. It was that aspect of the story that kept me entertained as I tried to understand what & how the author looked at things. This book will attract the international readers to whom Goddess Kali may feel like an exotic God. From an Indian point of view though, the plot line felt a bit bland to me. To be fair, having grown up reading about these Gods and Goddess and the many points of views about them, it would take something really big and complicated to wow me.

To round up, this book fell a bit short for me for the reasons stated above. But the Authors writing style and narrative did make an impression. As such I plan to read a couple of books more by this author to see how her plots feel when it is about something that is new to me.


Review Copy received from the Author


18 June, 2016

#BookReview :: My Last Love Story by Falguni Kothari


About the Book:
Perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes’s, Me Before You, My Last Love Story is a heartbreakingly romantic tale about the complexities of trauma and whether love can right a wrong.

I, Simeen Desai, am tired of making lemonade with the lemons life has handed me.

Love is meant to heal wounds.
Love was meant to make my world sparkle and spin.
Love has ripped my life apart and shattered my soul. 

I love my husband, and he loves me.
But Nirvaan is dying.
I love my husband. I want to make him happy.
But he is asking for the impossible. 

I don’t want a baby.
I don’t want to make nice with Zayaan.
I don’t want another chance at another love story. 



Book Links:

My Review:

Falguni Kothari is an author who has already established the fact that she CAN tell a story well. From a sweet romance in Bootie and the Beast to mythology based fantasy in The Soul Warrior, she has also proved her versatility by dabbling in different genres. So there was no question of whether I would read her latest release or not. 

My Last Love Story revolves around three friends – Nirvaan, Simeen and Zayaan. Their lives are more tangled than they would like to admit. With Nirvaan battling cancer, he wants to make provisions for the wellbeing of his dear wife Simeen after he is gone. On one hand he shamelessly takes advantage of his situation to get things his way and on the other hand we see how brave he is being by accepting what is inevitable. Simeen has her own demons to fight. The fact that she may lose her husband to cancer is tough to handle for any woman. But for her to consider bringing a child into the world only to have to shoulder all the responsibilities that come with it alone… And then there is the matter of her having to live in close proximity with Zayaan. To say that Simeen has more than enough on her plate to deal with doesn’t do justice. And with this pair, throw in a third wheel – Zayaan, who wants to do all he can for Nirvaan, including fulfilling his weirdest wishes. These three were as tight as peas in a pod at one point and then they were not. Now that they are all brought together, there is fun, there is tension and there are sparks. In their words they are the Awesome Threesome… they have indeed come a long way from their teenage friendships. But what does the road ahead have in store for them?

This is the second romance novel of Falguni’s that I am reading and they are so different from each other that it is a pleasure to see an author exploring different dynamics of relationships and types of love instead of sticking to the run-of-the-mill romances with commercial value. My Last Love story is a very mature love story and one of the boldest stories I have read in recent times. The dynamics in the story is not out of this world. It is a very real possibility and our society usually frowns upon and shuns such cases. It is either ignored on the whole or presented by the media in a ‘masala’ sort of way that can make anyone cringe. Irrespective of it all, the fact is that it happens and it does not have to be ‘wrong’ all the time. The author has handled the subject very maturely and delivered in a manner that it touches the heart of the readers. It would have been very easy to miss the mark and this book could have ended up to be really tacky… which goes on to show that story telling is in fact an art form that when mastered can really create master pieces. Okay, so I did not mean to go on a rant. But I couldn’t help it – I had to get it out of my system and now I will move on…

The main characters have been developed so well that they not only feel real but it feels like I have known them all my life. Each of the three maintains a very individualistic personality with their own quirks. It is difficult for me to point out which character I loved the most in this story because I feel that all three of them are on equal footing here. Additionally their family members add bits and pieces to the story. While the characters, narrative and the plot all have their shining moments, it is the ending that stole my heart. I imagined quite a few alternative endings to the story but none made as much sense. This was just perfect. The only flaw I can pick on is the title of the story. I cannot expand on why I did not like the title without giving out spoilers. But I dearly wish that the author had chosen something else including the working title ‘Love Undeniable. Heart Unreliable.’, that the author had considered.

All in all, this is absolutely delightful book if you pick it up with an open mind. 



Read an Excerpt:


Dear Readers, thank you for coming along on the My Last Love Story Blog Tour. Here’s an excerpt to enjoy.

ONE

“Love is a dish best served naked.”
As a child, those oft-quoted words of my father would have me rolling my eyes and pretending to gag at what I’d imagined was my parents’ precursor to a certain physical act. 
At thirty, I’d long ago realized that getting naked wasn’t a euphemism for sex. 
Neither was love.
It wasn’t my father wording the meme just now but my husband. Nirvaan considered himself a great wit, a New Age philosopher. On the best of days, he was, much like Daddy had been. On the worst days, he was my tormentor. 
“What do you think, Dr. Archer? Interesting enough tagline for a vlog? What about ‘Baby in a Petri Dish’?” Nirvaan persisted in eliciting a response from the doctor and/or me for his ad hoc comedy, which we’d been ignoring for several minutes now.
I wanted to glare at him, beg him to shut up, or demand that he wait in the doctor’s office like he should’ve done, like a normal husband would have. Khodai knows why he’d insisted on holding my hand through this preliminary checkup. Nothing of import would happen today—if it did at all. But I couldn’t perform any such communication, not with my eyes and mouth squeezed shut while I suffered through a series of uncomfortable twinges along my nether regions. 
I lay flat on my back on a spongy clinic bed sheeted with paper already wrinkled and half torn. Legs drawn up and spread apart, my heels dug punishingly into cold iron stirrups to allow my gynecologist’s clever fingers to reach inside my womb and check if everything was A-OK in there. We’d already funneled through the Pap test and stomach and chest checks. Like them, this test, too, was going swell in light of Dr. Archer’s approving happy hums. 
“Excellent, Mrs. Desai. All parts are where they should be,” he joked only as a doctor could.
I shuddered out the breath I’d been holding, as the feeling of being stretched left my body. Nirvaan squeezed my hand and planted a smacking kiss on my forehead. I opened my eyes and focused on his beaming upside-down ones. His eyelids barely grew lashes anymore—I’d counted twenty-seven in total just last week—the effect of years of chemotherapy. For a second, my gaze blurred, my heart wavered, and I almost cried. 
What are we doing, Nirvaan? What in Khodai’s name were we starting?
Nirvaan stroked my hair, his pitch-black pupils steady and knowing and oh-so stubborn. Then, his face rose to the stark white ceiling, and all I saw was the green-and-blue mesh of his gingham shirt—the overlapping threads, the crisscross weaves, a pattern without end. 
Life is what you make it, child. It was another one of my father’s truisms.
Swallowing the questions twirling on my tongue, I refocused my mind on why we were here. I’d promised Nirvaan we’d try for a baby if he agreed to another round of cancer-blasting treatments. I’d bartered for a few more months of my husband’s life. He’d bartered for immortality through our child.
Dr. Archer rolled away from between my legs to the computer station. He snapped off and disposed of the latex gloves. Then, he began typing notes in near-soundless staccato clicks. Though the examination was finished, I knew better than to sit up until he gave me leave. I’d been here before, done this before—two years ago when Nirvaan had been in remission and the idea of having a baby had wormed its way into his head. We’d tried the most basic procedures then, whatever our medical coverage had allowed. We hadn’t been desperate yet to use our own money, which we shouldn’t be touching even now. We needed every penny we had for emergencies and alternative treatments, but try budging my husband once he’d made up his mind.
“I’m a businessman, Simi. I only pour money into a sure thing,” he rebuked when I argued.
I brought my legs together, manufacturing what poise and modesty I could, and pulled the sea-green hospital gown bunched beneath my bottom across my half-naked body. I refused to look at my husband as I wriggled about, positive his expression would be pregnant with irony, if not fully smirking. And kudos to him for not jumping in to help me like I would have. 
The tables had turned on us today. For the past five years, it’d been Nirvaan thrashing about on hospital beds, trying in vain to find relief and comfort, modesty or release. Nirvaan had been poked, prodded, sliced, and bled as he battled aggressive non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I’d been the stoic spectator, the supportive wife, the incompetent nurse, the ineffectual lover. 
And now? What role would I play now?
As always, thinking about our life left me feeling even more naked than I was in the open-fronted robe. I turned my face to the wall, my eyes stinging, as fear and frustration bubbled to the surface. Flesh-toned posters of laughing babies, pregnant mothers, and love-struck fathers hung from the bluish walls. Side by side were the more educative ones of human anatomy, vivisected and whole. The test-tube-like exam room of Monterey Bay Fertility Clinic was decorated in true California beach colors—sea-foam walls, sandy floors, pearl-pink curtains, and furniture—bringing the outdoors in. If the decor was meant to be homey, it wasn’t having such an effect on me. This room, like this town and even this country, was not my natural habitat, and I felt out of my element in it. 
I’d lived in California for seven years now, ever since my marriage, and I still didn’t think of it as home, not like Nirvaan did. Home for me was India. And no matter the dark memories it held, home would always be Surat.
“All done.” Dr. Archer pushed the computer trolley away and stood up. “You can get dressed, Mrs. Desai. Take your time. Use whatever supplies you need. We’ll wait for you in my office,” he said, smiling. 
Finally, I can cover myself, I thought. Gooseflesh had erupted across my skin due to the near frigid clinic temperatures doctors tortured their patients with—like a patient didn’t have enough to suffer already. Medical facilities maintained cool indoor temperatures to deter inveterate germs from contaminating the premises and so its vast flotilla of equipment didn’t fry. I knew that. But knowing it still didn’t inspire any warm feelings in me for the “throng of professional sadists with a god complex.” I quoted my husband there. 
Nirvaan captured my attention with a pat on my head. “See you soon, baby,” he said, following the doctor out of the room. 
I scooted off the bed as soon as the door shut behind them. My hair tumbled down my face and shoulders at my jerky movements. I smoothed it back with shaking hands. Long, wavy, and a deep chestnut shade, my hair was my crowning glory, my one and only feature that was lush and arresting. Nirvaan loved my hair. I wasn’t to cut it or even braid it in his presence, and so it often got hopelessly knotted. 
I shrugged off the clinic gown, balled it up, and placed it on the bed. I wiped myself again and again with antiseptic wipes, baby wipes, and paper towels until the tissues came away stain-free. I didn’t feel light-headed. I didn’t allow myself to freak. I concentrated on the flow of my breaths and the pounding of my heart until they both slowed to normal. 
It was okay. I was not walking out with a gift-wrapped baby in tow. Not today. No reason to freak out.
I reached for my clothes and slipped on my underwear. They were beige with tiny white hearts on them—Victoria’s Secret lingerie Nirvaan had leered and whistled at this morning. 
Such a silly man. Typical Nirvaan, I corrected, twisting my lips. 
Even after dressing in red-wash jeans and a full-sleeved sweater, I shivered. My womb still felt invaded and odd. As I stepped into my red patent leather pumps, an unused Petri dish sitting on the workstation countertop caught my eye. 
The trigger for Nirvaan’s impromptu comedy, perhaps? 
Despite major misgivings about the Hitleresque direction my life had taken, humor got the better of me, and I grinned. 
Silly, silly Nirvaan. Baby in a Petri dish, indeed.


About the Author:


Falguni Kothari is an internationally bestselling hybrid author and an amateur Latin and Ballroom dance silver medalist with a background in Indian Classical dance. She writes in a variety of genres sewn together by the colorful threads of her South Asian heritage and expat experiences. When not writing or dancing, she fools around on all manner of social media, and loves to connect with her readers. My Last Love Story is her fourth novel.







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17 June, 2016

#Spotlight :: Student Bodies by Susan Israel

Student Bodies by Susan Israel

Synopsis:

Student Bodies by Susan IsraelDelilah Price is still dealing with the consequences of her recent abduction, but she needs to keep her life on track. In order to survive as an artist in New York City, she has started working as a substitute teacher, which leaves her navigating between two worlds that are foreign to her – students and educators.
Detective Patrick Quick has taken up a big place in Delilah's life. That is, when he isn't consumed by a case. And right now the case that is taking Quick away from Delilah involves a serial rapist and is striking very close to home.
On her way to her first day of work, Delilah witnesses a young girl falling in front of a subway train – or was she pushed? The victim turns out to have been a student at the middle school where Delilah has been assigned to teach and the teacher she is subbing for is a missing person herself. As Delilah gets to know her students and befriends a teacher on staff, she realizes that many have been hiding dark secrets that suggest abuse and worse. And when yet another girl who has hinted strongly that she was abused is a no show to class, Delilah stops counting on police help and follows leads on her own. Putting a dangerous predator on her trail.
The dramatic follow-up to Susan Israel's debut suspense novel, Over My Live Body, Student Bodies is a novel rippling with tension and twists.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery Published by: The Story Plant Publication Date: May 31, 2016 Number of Pages: 230                                                                                               ISBN: 9781611882278 Series: Connected to Over My Live Body by Susan Israel                                                           Purchase Links: Amazon Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

There never seems to be a train lighting up the tunnel when you need one in a hurry, but today one is there and the doors close just as the red message at the turnstile commands me to swipe my MetroCard through again. And again. Damn! I drop my MetroCard and get shoved by someone behind me. I turn around to give whoever it is a dirty look and see a dark-haired young girl wearing a pleated white dress. Late for her confirmation or something like that, I’m thinking. How long is that dress going to stay pristine down here? She looks dazed. I pick up my MetroCard and get through the turnstile on the next swipe, then step out of her way. She swipes hers, too, her hand shaking.
I head for the public phone to my right to call the school I’m supposed to be at to say I’m running a little late. Nobody answers. I’ll apologize profusely when I get there. When I turn back toward the platform, the girl is on her knees, her head bowed. She must really be late if it’s come to this. I’ve never seen anyone kneeling on a subway platform before. She closes her eyes. Commuters make a part around her. A street person starts singing “The Greatest Love Of All” in front of the newsstand, palm extended, asking for handouts. Commuters make a part around him too. They’re just obstacles, like the red, white and blue poles along the length of the platform. I turn back to look at the girl. Behind me I get a whiff of cheap cologne. The same cologne I smelled in Sachi’s bedroom. I whirl around. Anyone here could be wearing that cologne. And a lot of it too. I’m at a disadvantage. I don’t know who I’m looking for. Who here would be Sachi’s type? Do I know Sachi’s type?
I go over to the newsstand to get a bag of M & Ms, sniffling so much from the cologne that the news-vendor gestures to a pile of pocket tissues. “You got a cold? You want these too, miss?” I shake my head. My feet sense the vibration of the approaching train first and I start dropping change in my hurry to pay the vendor before I miss this train too. A scream punctuates the approach of the train. Trains don’t make noise like this. I whirl around and see a man with his hands extended in front of him. I can’t tell if he’s been grabbing at something or pushing something. The girl in the white dress literally flies in front of the train as it hisses to a stop. I cover my eyes for a split second and then force myself to look around me. A crowd forms around where the girl was kneeling just moments ago. More people scream. A couple of people lean over the platform and gag. I turn away again. I don’t want to believe what I think just happened actually happened.
“She jumped.”
“She was trying to get away from that person who grabbed her elbow.”
“It looked to me like he was trying to keep her from jumping.”
“It looked to me like he pushed her toward it.”
“Well, she’s gone anyway.”
“Call nine-one-one, someone, hurry!”
All of these accounts turn out to be soliloquies because nobody’s here to question these people, not yet. I take several deep breaths. I’ve lost the urge to sneeze. Whoever was wearing that cologne is gone. I take a good look at the faces on the platform. Quite a few of them have a distinct greenish tinge, blending well with the mosaics of beavers on the subway wall. I imagine mine must look that way too. I hear the squawk of police radios on the stairway. Suddenly blue uniforms swarm the platform and start buzzing orders. “Okay, everybody, stay back, give the EMS guys a chance to get through.”
“She’s beyond EMS,” one onlooker says.
“You a doctor, sir?”
“Uh, no…”
“Well then, stand back with everyone else and let someone qualified make that determination.”
A few people back up toward the turnstiles. Another officer stops them. “No one’s going nowhere just yet. We got a report this girl was pushed.”
“She wasn’t pushed. Looked to me like she was trying to get away from somebody and lost her footing.”
“That ain’t all she lost.”
“People, I’m going to have to ask you to stay over there by the newsstand out of our way till somebody asks you some questions about what happened here.”
A man standing next to me clears his throat. “I didn’t see anything, can I go?”
“No one’s going nowhere,” the officer snaps.
“Candy, gum, magazines,” the newsstand vendor chants in a heavily accented voice. “Get something to pass the time.”
“We want to talk to you too,” the officer says to the vendor.
I can’t see beyond the wall of blue lined up along the platform. I realize I still have the bag of M & Ms clutched in my hand. I’ve lost my craving for them and it’s so hot on the platform that I’m sure they’ll have melted before I leave. I look around for a trash can to throw them in and see more scuffed shoes descending the stairs. Then I see someone that makes my hand squish the life out of that bag of M & Ms altogether.
“Delilah,” Quick says as he starts toward me. “Did you see anything?” I have a distinct feeling just from the tone of his voice that he would rather I didn’t see anything.
It may be more a question of what I smelled. I shake my head. “I’m not sure. I don’t know if what I noticed would be very helpful.”
“Try me,” he says. Under other circumstances there is nothing I’d rather do. “Wait here. I’ll want to talk to you at the station.”
“I have to wait here?”
He nods. “Afraid so.” He mumbles a few asides to a uniformed cop to his right and then turns back to me. “I can’t say how long we’ll be. We’ve got to talk to a lot of witnesses.” He looks around. “As you can see. We want to talk to anyone who’s handicapped and elderly first, so they can go. We don’t want anyone having heat stroke down here.”
Another detective saunters up to him. “Girl did an Anna Karenina, from what I understand.”
Where did he come up with that? I wonder if an all points bulletin is going to be posted for someone named Vronsky. The uniforms start beckoning potential witnesses away from the platform, toward the benches against the wall and through the turnstiles. A detective sidles up to the newsstand behind me. A baby begins to wail loudly. “I got to nurse,” his mother protests, pulling at one of the policeman’s sleeve with her free hand.
He whirls around. “Hey, don’t do that.”
“I got to nurse. My baby hungry.”
“Sit over there,” he points to the row of benches behind me, next to the newsstand.
I look over at the pay phone, thinking I better call the school to say I’m not going to be able to make it, period, that they’re going to need a substitute for this substitute, and probably call Heidi Obermeyer, too, to tell her to get another model, but the line is longer than the line to cash checks in banks the first of the month. I hate doing a no-show but expect everybody will understand. At least I hope they will. The girl on the tracks is never going to show up for anything again. I’m beginning to smell vomit. I don’t know how long it takes for a dead body to start to smell and I don’t want to find out. I look over at Quick who’s deep in conversation with yet another witness. How can he stand this, dealing with death all the time? I start to walk farther down the platform, as far away from the mayhem as I can, until I can’t go any further.
“Miss, where you going?” someone calls out. I ignore him.
Then, “Delilah!”
I reel around. Quick waves me back and points to the congregation of witnesses clustered around the newsstand. “I need air,” I whisper to him, clutching my stomach. “I feel like I’m going to be sick.”
“Okay, hold on, I’ll get someone to escort you.” I wish I could hold on to him, witnesses be damned. “I want to talk to you at the house, not here. I’ll be there as soon as I’m finished up here.” He keeps watch on me as he takes a uniformed officer aside and then says something to him I can’t hear and gestures for me to go with him. I’d gladly follow someone into a cell as long as it meant getting away from this. But I’d rather it be Quick.

Author Bio:

Susan IsraelSusan Israel lives in Connecticut with her beloved dog, but New York City lives in her heart and mind. Her first novel, OVER MY LIVE BODY, was published by The Story Plant in 2014. A graduate of Yale College, her fiction has been published in Other Voices, Hawaii Review and Vignette, and she has written for magazines, websites and newspapers, including Glamour, Girls Life, Ladies Home Journal and The Washington Post. She’s currently at work on the third book in the Delilah Price series.

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