The Bowl Full of Blood
The dark night is full of secrets. Birsingh, childhood friend and loyal follower of the king, must leave his beloved wife, Tara, who then falls into the hands of her murderous father. Birsingh, meanwhile, is framed for the murder of the king’s son and imprisoned, but meets a notorious bandit, enemy to the king, who frees him and helps him escape. A wise sage, a captive handmaid, a false servant, a neighboring king; no one is who or what he (or she) seems to be, in this thrilling, action-packed novel of double-crosses, false identities, betrayals, and murder.
If this sounds lurid and sensational, it is; and it gets even better. The corpses multiply, with beheadings and stabbings; there are fights, intrigues, abductions, terror, and suspense. The villain, supremely evil, even murders a child in cold blood to force its mother’s acquiescence while the hero, the epitome of all virtues, discovers his own hidden identity and sets the kingdom to right in the end. It is actually a lot of fun.
This book was originally written in the late nineteenth century, one of the first novels to be written in Hindi. The author’s novels were key to an awakened awareness of and appreciation for this native language. The afterword, by translator Balwant Kaur, gives an interesting history of the author’s works and their important place in Indian literary history. But this novel is a great diversion by its own merits; reading it, you understand why this author’s novels became so popular. It is definitely a product of the Victorian era, influenced by the British regime, but certainly with its own, uniquely Indian flavor. Although there is a lot of sensationalism, there is not really a lot of gore, in accordance with Victorian sensibilities, which is really quite refreshing. Readers of contemporary crime/ mysteries or CSI-type novels will probably find the action fairly tame, and the revelations not particularly surprising, being rather formulaic. However, being one of the earliest of this type, it was fairly innovative for its time, and especially for its readership. Readers who are willing to suspend their modern cynicism and allow themselves the fun of immersing themselves in a fantastic tale from long ago will enjoy a great ride.
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|Mystery, Crime, Thriller