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You Beneath Your Skin

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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 center 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.

392 pages, Kindle Edition

First published September 17, 2019

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About the author

Damyanti Biswas

11 books845 followers
Damyanti Biswas is an author, blogger, animal-lover, spiritualist.

Her Indian debut literary crime novel You Beneath Your Skin was an Amazon bestseller, and optioned for the screens by Endemol Shine. Her next novel, The Blue Bar, was published in Jan 2023 via Thomas & Mercer. It was a number one new release on Amazon, and Publisher's Weekly, in their Starred review called it 'an unforgettable, searing portrait of marginalized people struggling for survival'.

Her work has been published in Smokelong Quarterly, Ambit, Pembroke Review, Griffith review among many others in the US, UK, and Australia. She also serves as one of the editors of the The Forge literary magazine.

Be sure to follow Damyanti on Bookbub for the latest on sales and giveaways. Say hello on Twitter or Instagram : where she loves chatting about books, cake, and existential angst.

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Profile Image for Sandysbookaday is (reluctantly) on hiatus.
1,927 reviews2,013 followers
October 28, 2020
EXCERPT: She dabbed Vicks under her nose. It stung but helped fade out the stench of detergents and bleach that layered the mortuary corridor, and the butcher-shop odour lurking beneath the chemicals. That smell took her back to her childhood grocery trips with her dad on Sundays, when they chose steak for Mom,chicken or lamb for her and Dad. She might have been American but her Hindu father had insisted she not eat beef.

Right now, she must drag her Hindu-American butt through the long corridor lined with racks and drawers, and study a corpse without throwing up. Must find her way to the killer - not think about how the body had once been a living, breathing person, or how it would soon be turned into ash and charred bones.

ABOUT 'YOU BENEATH YOUR SKIN': 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.

MY THOUGHTS: I am torn by this book. It is so well written in parts, as in the extract above, but in others I almost abandoned the read. And I seriously considered abandoning it in the early chapters which are confusing with an overload of information about the characters, their backgrounds, the poverty and corruption in New Delhi. We don't need all this information at once, it can be dribbled out during the course of the book, just like getting to know someone in real life. Initially, the bare bones are enough. It could be said that the author was setting the scene, but it seemed to me more like muddying the waters.

There are too many issues being addressed, all of them squabbling for attention. It was like trying to read in a classroom of small children all screaming 'Pick me! Pick me!' If the main issue is the acid attacks on women, then that should be the primary focus of the book, with just one or two other threads quietly weaving away in the background. There really is enough material in You Beneath Your Skin for at least two, if not three books.

Yet, despite my, I hope, constructive criticism, I enjoyed this read. I did so by screening out/skimming the extraneous material. This is nothing that a good editor couldn't fix and is a measure that I strongly recommend. This is a good read. It could be a great one.

I am impressed that the author is donating the author profits from You Beneath Your Skin to charity. Half of the author proceeds of this book go to Chhanv foundation, which works to support acid attack survivors. The other half of the author proceeds go to Project WHY, which believes in the rights of all children to an education, and to a safe childhood. Through well-rounded education, it transforms communities from within. That alone makes the purchase of You Beneath Your Skin worthwhile.


'A few years ago no one knew what a smartphone was and now . . . phones had replaced manners.'

THE AUTHOR: Damyanti Biswas is an author, blogger, animal-lover, spiritualist.

When not pottering about with her plants or her aquariums, you can find her nose deep in a book, or baking up a storm.

You Beneath Your Skin is her debut literary crime novel.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to author Damyanti Biswas for providing a digital ARC of You Beneath Your Skin for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and my webpage https://sandysbookaday.wordpress.com/...
August 25, 2019
Having just read this story, I can report that I enjoyed it immensely. It does a wonderful job of entertaining; however, equally as important, it educates and it raises the consciousness. At times it’s quite searing.

I enjoyed the character development and the easy flow of the narrative, especially the completely natural dialogue, which is always a "make or break" ingredient for me as a reader. The intricacies of the plot are nicely handled and well stitched together.

The story’s underlying message is about violence against women, which sadly happens around the world, but perhaps more so in certain countries and cultures, as I’ve come to understand it. As a North American, I occasionally get wind of a particularly savage incident on the other side of the globe, but its sharp edge is soon blunted by the company it keeps, much of that here in my own corner. We are drenched each day by news of awful things and we go to bed with our minds numbed. A story about an act of violence in a faraway place disturbs us momentarily, but is then absorbed by the greater body, like a raindrop on a lake.

As a male, I can be shocked by violence against women, feel a general human empathy, know how unforgiveable it is, and pray that it might never happen to my mother, my girlfriend, my sisters and nieces. Yet there’s still been a sort of pane between my own view of such violence and the perspective of a woman, I suppose, simply because I am a male. Yes, I can visualize myself being a victim of violence; however, on its own, my imagination (though capable of much) has perhaps mostly come up short in fully understanding the female experience, it having been influenced by my singular male experience.

I say that because, now that I’ve completed this reading, I feel that I have been removed from the hubbub, the crowded room, and invited into a private conversation, with no distractions. In the quiet, I am given the full story, the clear, close-up picture, and it helps to widen my understanding, to move it away from the abstract. Therein lies the service provided by this novel. It has brought me much closer to comprehending a woman’s discomfort as she simply moves along a city street, never mind continuing up the scale through vulnerability, anger, fear, outrage and despair, all of which seem to go hand in hand with living in a male-dominated society. Add to that, in the case of India, a caste system. Simply put, it has made it more real for me. I am able to walk about my city, feeling anonymous, comfortable and unthreatened. It ought to be the same for a woman.

Without a doubt, this book will resonate with women, but I feel that if it's had such an effect on me, then many other male readers will experience the same, no matter where they reside. They'll likely find it an eye-opener.

I believe that what I have written so far clearly expresses my many likes regarding this novel. I am unable to mention any dislikes; however, there is one aspect which I suppose I might describe as a “difficulty,” although it's one which is due to my unfamiliarity with Indian names, and not a problem with the writing.

To explain, as a North American, I’m accustomed to being able to recognize names by gender. Of course we too have some genderless names such as “Dale,” “Kim,” and “Sandy,” but mainly we have delineated boy-names and girl-names, if I can put it simplistically. Speaking for myself, that assists in following the narrative. Coming from a completely different culture, I found that while getting into this story - and it has numerous characters - I was having a bit of trouble keeping it straight about who was who, as the unfamiliar names didn’t lock in right away. This was slightly compounded by the fact that several characters have more than one appellation -- formal names, nicknames, et cetera. This was not a major stumbling block, though, because context eventually sorted it out for me and I became more familiar with everybody as I progressed. It did not remain an issue.

India as the setting was not a problem for me. I love to escape my own life and “go travelling,” when I read a book. I enjoyed the descriptions of life in Delhi. Some were painful to read, obviously, but this book wasn’t meant to be painless. I’m impressed by the amount of research that Damyanti Biswas must have engaged in, in order to bring us into the upper echelons of the police force, into the medical world, as well as taking us to the slums and to the comfortable homes of the well-off. Throughout, there's a satisfying mix of the exotic (for me) and the familiar. And hey, there’s a Nando’s (I love Nando’s)!

There are numerous Hindi phrases sprinkled through the narrative, but I found this to be a good feature, even though I'm not able to understand them. Things are taking place in India, after all, and these phrases enhance that setting and contribute to the exotic aspect I mentioned earlier. In any case, they are most of the time gently blended with an English clarification.

Reading this story was time well spent.

I received it as an ARC, and I now look forward to its publication so that I can add a copy to my personal library!
Profile Image for Melanie Lee.
Author 26 books15 followers
August 20, 2019
An incredibly compelling read. Damyanti does a wonderful job in world-building and character development. The story is really well-paced and I was fully immersed in the story.
Profile Image for Shilpa Garg.
142 reviews80 followers
August 16, 2019
I received an ARC. You Beneath Your Skin grabbed my attention like no other in the recent past. I just sat and turned page after page as the story gripped me from the word go.

The horror, the conflicts, the drama takes you on a dangerous and a thrilling ride. You Beneath Your Skin is a racy-pacy crime thriller with a plot that twists and turns like the alleys of the slums. It takes you into the dark underbelly of India where the poor are mere pawns in the deadly game of power, greed, lust and corruption. The plot is inspired from our real world where murders, misogyny, dog-eat-dog politics, personal prejudices, poverty, corruption and ambition are common and as a reader you can relate to it all. The characters are strong, well-etched and very real. The voice of the author is succinct and lucid and written in a no-nonsense manner. The dialogues are realistic and engaging.

You Beneath Your Skin is a compelling and credible crime thriller that is really hard to put down. Highly recommended. JUST GO FOR IT!!
13 reviews
August 21, 2019
A crime thriller that takes its time to build up the suspense and action, but once it does, you are fully gripped, eager to turn the page. It becomes unputdownable soon and you're completely engrossed in the plot. There have been few occasions when I've been so invested in the character's lives. Damyanti Biswas has laid out well the characters such as Anjali Morgan, Jatin Bhatt, and Maya in a manner that draws you in. I especially loved the minute detailing in the book, be it the description of roadside dhabas serving ghee-soaked aloo parathas on cold dark nights or the orange stems of the harsinghar blossoms. She has done meticulous research on various aspects of the book and it shows.

It's a thrilling ride you definitely don't want to miss!
Profile Image for Amisha Bahl Chawla.
65 reviews5 followers
September 9, 2019
“Sabke andar daag hotey hain. Pawan’s voice shook. All of us have scars, secrets.”

A Profound line that resonates with you long after you have put down this thriller/murder mystery/literary novel.
A Line filled with a much deeper ethos than what you see at a simple glance.
A line filled with strata of anguish, misery, pain, betrayal and ultimately truth. All revealed as you peel back layers upon layers of the story and yourself as well.

Much like how you peel away layer upon layer of an onion, each giving rise to a multitude of tears that eventually result in good health (when you eat it, onions are one of nature’s healers), ‘You Beneath Your Skin’ has diverse layers that you peel back to reveal the hidden truths beneath.

A debutante novel by Damyanti , it shows no hesitation or faltering of any kind. Instead it strives ahead showing heroic strength in its characters, in the myriad topics it covers and most importantly in the authors writing style.

The richness of style, strangely bought back memories of Anita Desai’s Fire on the Mountain and the black humour in it.Fire on the Mountain

If I were to even attempt to give the storyline in gist I would go with the thriller/murder mystery part of the book as that’s both the shortest as well as the one where I might not give away the plot.

The story set in Delhi focuses on an Indo-American woman called Anjali (brilliantly and aptly named as you will find out when you read the book) and her life and its various connections/layers. One of these layers is a set of rapes, murders and acid attacks of women in the slums of Delhi, its subsequent follow up by Special Commissioner of Crime, Jatin Bhatt and the myriad directions it unravels in.

As with all the rest of the layers in this book, even the thriller part minces no words and shows you the truth, yes it is the harsh truth, but that unfortunately is reality.

A reality that the author exposes to you in a sublime manner that depending on the mood you are in will be a racy thriller or an introspection into the world we live in and our attitude towards it. A world which like Delhi’s smog is filled with life’s vagaries from autism, rape, murder, prostitution, acid attacks to socio-political scenarios and of course the bane and savior of our lives – LOVE.

As a person who has grown up hearing ghazals nearly every day absolutely loved the few nazams peppered in throughout the book. Would have loved if the author had added in a line by line translation of the same so all could understand the nuances of the mood better. Thankfully the gist of them is mentioned.

The murder mystery aficionado in me craved for more stories of the Vigil detective agency and its chief investigators Maya and Pawan (people who like Remington Steele and Castle will love these two). Hopefully my wish gets granted and a second novel only on their antics comes out soon.

The underlying theme that I took away from this book was beauty, the tendency of people to be narcissists and our continuous need to be perfect. A perfection that makes us want to hide and not face up to the truth right in front of us.

Beneath that theme lies another deeper layer, a layer that resounds with the first noble truth - Life is suffering. How the protagonist learns to kick ass back and realize what lies within can inspire you to do more, think more and question yourself.
Who are you, beneath your skin?

So glad I got this ARC it really made me sit back and introspect a lot on life. Hope you liked my fair and honest review.
Happy Reading :)
2 reviews3 followers
September 18, 2019
Set in a cold, smoggy New Delhi that evokes Jack the Ripper's London, this is a thrilling and often surprising read that asks how little we know even the people closest to us. Anjali is a psychiatrist and single mother to teenaged Nikhil, who is on the autism spectrum. She's carrying on a complicated affair with a police officer investigating a series of grisly crimes. The city itself, traffic-clogged and vibrantly bustling, contributes to the tension. The wealthy and poor live in close proximity, and the lines between good and evil are blurry. There are kind-hearted but corrupt cops, pillars of the community who aren't what they seem, and plenty of familial betrayal.

This is essentially a murder mystery, but what makes it unique is the beauty of the writing and the fascinating setting and characters. Some characters are blinded by adoration, some refuse to look closely due to fear, but they all overlook essential points about their closest family and friends.

Also, I was delighted to read a book where a character's autism is so well written. Nikhil's challenges are well-evoked, but he is not an object of pity or voyeurism. His autism is a point of fact, not his whole being.

There is plenty to surprise even the most astute and jaded reader, and the writing flows so smoothly that you will quickly devour the entire thing.

I received an ARC for review, but my opinion is my own.
Profile Image for Nandakishore Mridula.
1,239 reviews2,227 followers
November 19, 2020
A word of warning at the beginning: if you are going to read this with a crime thriller in mind - you are going to be hugely disappointed. This is not written to get your adrenaline flowing (though that would happen occasionally), nor to surprise you with the proverbial rabbit out of the hat at the end. It is a crime story, true: a police procedural written against the gritty backdrop of Delhi, India's capital city and one of the places most unsafe for women in the whole wide world.

If I am asked to describe the story in one sentence, I would say that this is a compelling tale of screwed-up people, in a screwed-up city in a screwed-up country, going on with their screwed-up lives. There is no "protagonist" as such - the tale is of multiple people, told through multiple viewpoints. What comes out clear is the picture of Delhi - exotic, dirty, fascinating, ugly, frightening and somehow enchanting.

A crime wave is happening across the city. Slum women are being raped, their faces disfigured with acid, and bundled in trash bags and dumped in various places. For Special Commissioner of Crime Jatin Bhatt, this is an opportunity to crack a high profile case and clear his route to promotion as Commissioner when D. M. Mehra, his boss and father-in-law, retires. Jatin is not your honest cop from Bollywood: already he has covered up a crime at the behest of Mehra, and is facing the heat for it. He is hoping that he can solve the new case and jump into the limelight, thus washing away all previous stains on a not-so-honest career.

He has reason to feel apprehensive: he is carrying out an affair with Anjali Morgan, and Indian-American who is also his mentor's daughter. Anjali is fighting her own demons, with an autistic son Nikhil, a failed marriage and a gorgon of a mother with whom she does not communicate. Jatin's family life is a mess, with a marriage which is pulling on only due to political compulsions: his son Varun, the apple of his parents' eye, is the typical upper-caste, upper-class youngster whose decency is all surface polish, like the Delhi the tourists see. Varun is friends with Bunty, the Home Secretary's son, another young man who is even more messed up than himself.

In fact, the only two people in the novel who the reader can actually empathise with are Maya, Jatin's kid sister who is running a private detective agency and her assistant, Pawan Dahiya. As the investigations into the murders proceed, the lives of all these people are irrevocably changed as the underbelly of Delhi pulls them into its dark reaches.


What I loved about the book is its gritty, stark realism. Damyanti does not pull a single punch. From the first chapter, when Nikhil goes missing for a heart-stopping instance in a crowded shopping mall; to the last chapter where people are picking up their shattered lives, the novel offers us a view of life that is frighteningly fragile. These people, living in comparative luxury among the most abject poverty, are only a step away from the abyss which can draw anyone in. This is the reality of India: neither the sugar-coated fairy tale one finds in Slumdog Millionaire nor the smart-ass takedown of The White Tiger. This is India, presented dispassionately: warts and all.

And the picture of Delhi it paints - so graphic in its distressing details; one wants to shut the book and run away, but one gets pulled back into the story, again and again, like the gory crime scene one cannot avoid looking at. Filth, misery, drugs, human trafficking, child prostitution, police brutality... and of course, the unspeakable acid attacks on women with its attendant misery... Delhi, the capital of India, the place where career criminals run the government while the police play footsie with the petty crooks, awaits you.

Four extremely well-deserved stars!
Profile Image for Rae.
5 reviews
September 3, 2019
Damyanti Biswas's debut novel is a psychological crime-thriller that takes the reader on a careening journey through the streets and enclaves of New Delhi. The frigid temperatures and heavy smog lend an eeriness to all that unfolds.

The author establishes in some 385 pages the character development of a rather large cast of interconnected characters though the novel centers primarily on Anjali Morgan and Jatin Bhatt.

Anjali is a striking and sophisticated character. She is beautiful, blonde, half-Indian and involved in a decade long affair with a man her father mentored many years before in America. She is a psychiatrist but struggles in dealing with her teenage autistic son. It is a mystery why she fled America as a single mother and relocated to Delhi, where her life seems infinitely complicated. The reasons why unravel slowly, her divorce, the death of her father and her mother's hatred of her.

Anjali's mother's presence is felt like a nagging Greek chorus throughout two-thirds of the novel.

Jatin Bhatt is a police commissioner and Anjali's lover. His marriage has gone stale, and his hands are tied in police corruption. His only joy is his teenage son Varun, who is the antithesis to Anjali's boy.

To further complicate things, Jatin's boss is his father-in-law, and Anjali lives with Jatin's sister in his old family home.

Jatin's sister Maya is a private detective, gutsy and efficient who helps with some of her brother's cases. Maya also suffers a skin disease, has never had a relationship and keeps her skin hidden. She is close to her brother, sister-in-law and Jatin's wife and knows nothing of the affair.

Several lively and effective minor characters serve as side-kicks, criminals and orphans.

A big case comes up that Jatin hopes will bring him a promotion. Women are brutally raped, murdered and disfigured in New Delhi. Jatin enlists Anjali and Maya to help a decision that leads them on a dangerous path and changes the course of their lives forever.

The significance of the arresting title is fully apparent by the novel's end as each of the main character's face who they are beneath their skin.

Daymanti Biswas has plotted this novel brilliantly the pay-off for the slow-burn first-half is well worth the wait. The characterisation is strong; New Delhi is wonderfully atmospheric. The novel is impeccably researched and authentic. The divisions within society and levels of corruption and misogyny are astounding. The characters and events stay with you a long time after reading it.
Profile Image for Anna Tan.
Author 24 books160 followers
October 20, 2019
You Beneath Your Skin is a chilling debut by Damyanti Biswas--a psychological thriller that delves deep into dysfunctional families, broken relationships, drug abuse, and violence, all wrapped up in an unpresuming police procedural set in Delhi. There's also the relentless Delhi politics that keeps Jatin Bhatt in a loveless marriage, receiving dirty money and participating in cover-ups for minister's, whilst staying friendly with the Union Home Secretary and his powerful family, so that he can keep Commissioner Mehra, his father-in-law and boss, happy in hopes that he will be able to succeed him as Delhi's Chief of Police. If that's not enough, Damyanti throws into the mix complications from Anjali's son's autism, ramping up the tension, especially with the hide and seek that she plays with the truth.

The heart of this story, though, isn't the politics or the crime or the misadventures in love, though all these provide an entertaining though heart wrenching background. It's the poor women trapped in poverty who are subjected to one of the most cruel and debilitating attacks of all--acid attacks. Damyanti brings sympathy to the women caught in this plight through no fault of their own. The fault lies squarely with the men who hold women's lives to no value. In that aspect, this novel is a little sordid--there's no escaping the dirt and squalor, or the horrible crimes of rape and mutilation in this novel.

I love Damyanti's code switching, the way she brings out the different accents of her characters in their Indian English alongside their use of Hindi phrases. I tend to skim over the longer phrases (some of which may or may not be Urdu poetry?), but I'm sure those who speak Hindi and Urdu would appreciate it. She deftly includes translations, and the repetition of certain key phrases is also very helpful.

All in all, You Beneath Your Skin is a thrilling read, full of surprising twists and turns.
Profile Image for ianscyberspace.
2 reviews2 followers
September 10, 2019
Biswas has presented in this book all the elements of tragic modern life. There is the desire for closeness with someone you can rely on and trust and how this can play out when errors of heart occur. Add to this the caustic mutual destruction practiced in dysfunctional families, tension between doing what is right and what preserves position, influence, power and family face. In the story background inappropriate compromises are dictated, where power structures intervene to maintain an appearance of order and justice without a moral compass to guide. Though the story is fictional, events described made me feel I was a silent observer as the story unfolded and mirrored the horrors we read daily in actual news reports. A must read for all who need to be alert to what is happening in the underbelly of our societies and desire to be a voice for positive change.
Ian Grice, © “ianscyberspace.”
Profile Image for Neelima Vinod.
Author 4 books25 followers
September 20, 2019
You Beneath Your Skin is a difficult book to read for the faint-hearted- I cringed when I read about the women who were eaten up and mauled by acid. Violence against women is something words can not portray accurately enough; images also mislead, but Damyanti writes about the brutality of misogyny in a very matter of fact way with loads of research and shayari to lighten the scars. Her characters grow, so you empathize with Anjali and are frustrated with Jatin and worried about Nikhil…Damyanti doesn’t forget that human relationships form the core of a story and so though Delhi with all its demons looms in the backdrop, the heart of the story is only love, the simplest emotion of all and the hardest one to keep.

A compassionate crime thriller not to miss and a book I sense will go a long way.....
Profile Image for Arti.
618 reviews99 followers
September 23, 2019
The book is like the cover, one layer of words on the face of a girl. There are layers and layers in the story like an onion, and as one layer is removed, the other just comes out. And the book becomes unputdownable.
The realistic and relatable characters, their background stories, their nature and why they are what they are has been beautifully written. And one cannot know everything about the character at the beginning of the book, but as the story progresses, the characters reveal themselves, what they are and why they are like how they are. The psychological background of the characters have been described vividly.
The scenes have been described vividly, having seen many of the places described in the story, I could imagine the story happening right before my eyes. And embedded into this crime novel are many social problems that we as a society re facing.
Though the story has been written in third person, but the way the characters have been addressed in the chapters depends on whom the scene is based. For example, if the scene is moving with Pawan, Anjali has been referred to as Anjaliji whereas if the scene moves with Maya, Anjali becomes, Anji.
It is fast paced, the language is simple, the dialect effortlessly changes to Hindi where needed and not once does the reader lose the flow when the language changes as at many parts the meaning is also mentioned. There are couplets in Urdu mentioned along with their meanings, which makes the dialogues very realistic.
An excellent debut, this book is must read for lovers of mystery and all those who love thrillers with a warning that once you are past the first twenty pages of the book, you would be hooked.
September 22, 2019
In her debut novel, You Beneath Your Skin, Damyanti Biswas gives us a compelling psychological thriller which is not only a brilliant page-turner but shows us the truth about the misogyny and violence against women which sadly happens throughout the world.

The story opens when Anjali Morgan, a well-respected psychiatrist, is called to consult on a string of murders of young slum women, raped, murdered and disfigured with acid on the streets of New Delhi. Anjali already living a complicated life, being a single mother raising a special needs son named Nikhil, bearing the weight of a secretive past and working along-side her married boyfriend of ten years, Special Commissioner of Crime Jatin Bhatt is dragged into the center of a dark and dangerous case. Atmospheric and gritty we are witnesses to the investigation and the very real, very disturbing details of the crime. During the climax, Anjali finally begins to realize that she is on a path that may put herself and those she loves in grave jeopardy.

Personally, I loved everything about this book, I loved the detail brought to every scene, being immersed in the culture and most of all I love the way Anjali was written...her honesty, intelligence and insecurities all felt genuine making her very relatable.

To sum up, Ms Biswas gives us a flawlessly written, atmospheric, intriguing story with well developed, authentic, characters and an intricately plotted realistic crime story makes this such an incredibly entertaining and engrossing read that I would highly recommend!
Profile Image for Jemi Fraser.
Author 21 books45 followers
September 23, 2019
Compelling and powerful!
This story has incredible layers that blend and twist, and connections that take you by surprise.
The characters are complex and so human. My emotions swirled throughout the story - breaking my heart, stealing my breath, and lifting me up along the way.
Damyanti Biswas paints pictures so vivid I was immersed in the new-to-me setting of Delhi.
An unforgettable read that will stick with you long after you turn the final page.
777 reviews30 followers
September 21, 2019
A gripping and entertaining read. A story that sends out a very strong message about acid attacks, trafficking and much more.
Biswas is a master storyteller and her debut novel is just a proof of that. The characters are very well portrayed. Each of the character's story/dilemma is so intricately weaved into one big story.
The story is sure to take the reader on an emotional roller-coaster. If you like mysteries then I would highly recommend you to read this book.

Detailed review's here: https://thebookdecoder.com/2019/09/20...

P.S. Hindi words and quotes are used aplenty in the book. Some have translations while some don't. But in no way does this affect the reader in following the story.
Profile Image for C. McKenzie.
Author 21 books422 followers
September 26, 2019
As a single mom with a severely afflicted autistic child, Anjali Morgan struggles to keep herself and her son together in spite of his increasing hostility toward her and the fact that he’s becoming a young man with the strength to do her bodily harm.

Anjali’s family drama plays out amidst the dark under-world of drugs, prostitution, and horrid acid mutilation murders in today’s India.

This is a powerful story where police seek out the worst kind of criminals to protect those trapped in their web by poverty. While these officers risk their lives on crime-ridden streets, their private lives intertwine and often unravel.

In the end, You Beneath Your Skin reveals a terrible truth. Those with money and positions of power can insure even the most guilty go free. Yet, it’s clear that those who have escaped the justice of the legal system, will not escape who they are, and there is a hint that another kind of justice awaits them in the future.

Damyanti Biswas has created such believable and engrossing characters, thoroughly capturing their authentic voices. She has tightly woven all of the story threads into an engrossing page turner from the beginning to the end.

This is a must read book.
Profile Image for Aditya.
40 reviews2 followers
October 24, 2019
So let's start talking about the book "You Beneath Your Skin" a debut Novel by "Damyanti Biswas"

I won't be talking about the story because that will take all the fun off the time you read it but it is an amazingly fast read. The pace is unbelievably great and the reason I am saying unbelievably great is that the first 30-40 pages were incredibly slow and I didn't imagine that this book will gather up the pace to such a good extent.

The story is based in Delhi, the capital of India and not standing less than anyone in being crime capital as well. The plot takes a new turn with every time you didn't expect it to be and the turns are so frequent that by the end of the book you will get too used to of the layers and the depth of words Damyanti wants to depict. The book is a metaphor. Although, it says things directly there is a deep hidden meaning with every word, character, and actions. A mother cares about her autistic child, a child's actions, a doctor's thought about her patient, a policeman's responsibilities in the capital city and whatnot. (Although I told you people about the characters, for now, not going to reveal more story. READ THE BOOK)

The book is amazing to read if you want to read a thriller, it will give you goosebumps. Every incident will make you uncomfortable and not the type of non-comfort that you will leave the book, the type of dis-comfort that want you to complete the story and experience the more of it.

More about the book:
Damyanti works with Delhi's unprivileged children as a part of project Why, a charity that promotes education and social enhancement in underprivileged communities. I am proud to mention that all the profits of the book is going to help people from nonprofit organizations, Chaav Foundation and Project WHY.
Check the details here: https://projectwhy.org
Profile Image for Elias McClellan.
28 reviews
October 1, 2019
You Beneath Your Skin (YBYS) is the rare book that touches multiple lives and multiple stories while maintaining a consistent tone and laser focus on the central conflict. Damyanti Biswas tackles street-level crime, institutional corruption, and family intrigues—with multiple POV characters—all just shy of 400 pages with nary a wasted word. Her dialogue is precise, her action cutting, and each character is fully formed with distinct voices. Those characters are the soul of this hard-hitting crime novel

A lessor author would’ve focused on the protagonist with two-dimensional ancillary characters propped up to feed lines to her protagonist. Anjali Morgan, our heroine, is just that engaging. We feel Anjali’s commitment to her work with women and girls in India and to her autistic son, Nikhil. We feel her insecurities at her less-than-perfect life and the clinging, suffocating constraint of an affair with a married man.

Damyanti Biswas depicts the acid attack central to the story in intimate, harrowing realism. But YBYS presents the attack in a wider context of daily violence against women. The misogyny reflected in YBYS spans domestic abuse to bought-and-paid-for predation. That world is bare and unvarnished without descending to exploitation.

Police Commissioner Jatin Bhatt leads an investigation no one wants, to solve a crime no one cares about, (acid attacks are almost exclusive to the impoverished). But as the investigation advances, crime blooms like blood in water, with clouds of prostitution, child abuse, and murder that crosses class and rank. Instead of clarity, each development in his case uncovers another secret and strips away another layer of his carefully constructed professional and personal life.

Commissioner Bhatt’s team—a plucky private investigator and an aspiring police officer—plumb the depths of slimy pimps and sadistic killers in pursuit of the truth. But as rich as the cast is, perhaps the best written character is the one easiest to take for granted: New Delhi. The city itself—in the best crime tradition—shades every other character’s responses, fears, and strengths. New Delhi is in turns friendly ghost and deep-shadowed nightmare of violence.

As with all actions, the violence ripples out and touches everyone Anjali cares about: family, lover, and friends. No person, no relationship, emerges unscathed. And that is YBYS’s greatest success—an engrossing story of life and hope and freedom beyond violence. Some stories pass through your mind like a funny commercial. Others stay with you for a while. I know that You Beneath Your Skin will stay with me for quiet awhile. I envy the reader experiencing it for the first time.

I can’t wait for more stories from the Vigil.
Profile Image for Marc Faoite.
Author 19 books42 followers
September 24, 2019
An evocative and socially engaged thriller/mystery novel set primarily in and around Delhi, dealing with important issues including acid attacks, female empowerment, police corruption and violence, drug abuse, crippling poverty, and the tenacity of family ties. An exciting fast-paced read that sees the protagonist tackle demons from the past and present. The author captures Delhi perfectly with all the dirt and grime and tea-sipping uncles spitting in the dust. A fantastic first novel. I look forward to reading more from this very promising author.
Profile Image for Krutika Puranik.
615 reviews184 followers
November 4, 2019
Actual Rating - 3.7/5.
Book Review | You Beneath Your Skin.
When I read Make Love Not Scars many months ago, I was moved by the courage shown by the survivors. Having your entire face and identity ripped off in just a few seconds is a frightening thing to experience. Though this book by Damyanti is a work of fiction, it still makes the reader uncomfortable as they come across the tales being narrated by the survivors. In this story, the author focuses on acid attack crimes and other activities that revolve around drugs. About how a single moment of anger can turn someone's life upside down for good.
Anjali Morgan is a psychiatrist who was born to an Indian father and an American mother. Having an autistic child to tend to, Anjali finds herself busy most of the time. In her free time, she volunteers at an NGO called Hridayog. Though she carries her ex-husband's last name for official reasons, Anjali ends up having an affair with her married best friend Jatin who is a police officer. Things seem to move at a leisurely pace with Anjali and her son Nikhil, Jatin and his sister Maya. The recent case of murders with the victim's faces being mutilated beyond recognition suddenly stirs the city into a low hum. Amidst the investigation, Jatin stumbles upon many puzzling pieces as he tries to make sense of the murders. In the middle of the chaos, Anjali loses her ground when acid is thrown on her face.
This is where the book picks up speed and I found myself reading fiercely. The police department lead my Jatin look at things critically to find the killers. With Anjali's attack, the entire family comes together and look after each other. The book ends in a realistic manner the same way in which many cases are handled in our country. Through Anjali's struggle and determination, the author manages to put across the message that acid attack victims evolve into survivors. It's an intense book which addresses many relationships and how they often end up having an impact on people's growth.
Though the beginning moved at a snail's pace, I began to enjoy the book once it reached the middle. If you're looking for a crime story with a hint of reality to it, pick this up.

It is truly applaudable that the author is giving away all the proceeds to Project WHY and Stpp Acid Attack.
Profile Image for Sharon Shre.
73 reviews3 followers
September 30, 2019
You Beneath your skin is a beautiful crime thriller book. The narration of the story is very crisp initially and towards the end, it was like a chest of secret drawers, one leading to another.

The story has many themes like Love, Teamwork, Greed, Slum dwellers, Money, Power, Corrupted politician, Vigilance, Lust, Arrogance, family relationships and the way the author covered each segment is impeccable.

A Riveting story of an Indo American Single mother with her Autistic Son, Nikhil. Her relationship with Jatin Bhatt, Commissioner of Police, who was married to Drishti and their son, Varun. The story is set in Delhi where Anjali is a psychiatrist and stays at Maya’s Bungalow along with Nikhil.
Anjali and Maya are very good friends and share a special bond. The story unfolds as to how they along with other officers unlock the death mystery of slum women.

Ghalib quotes were like frosting on the cake. And Periodical insertion of Hindi along with Punjabi slang was too classic as well. I had a feeling of watching a web series which I never wanted to end.
A beautiful book with an elegant writing style and it kept hooked from the beginning of the story till its end.

The book cover says it all, painted in red and black with the variation of scenes happening around the protagonist and her feelings from inside. All explained so beautifully as it unraveled like rose petals falling apart. You Beneath your skin, a mixed feeling of Anjali on losing her face, being dependent on others and the title of home wrecker, amazingly fades away, just to witness a new dawn.

The language used by the author is simple and easy. The writing style is lucid and
This crime thriller is a brilliant combination of emotions, suspense, audacity, teamwork, relationship yet not blood-related they stood beside each other. The plot is inspired by the real world and narrated wonderfully.

I loved this book and will definitely recommend it all and cannot gush over it enough!

Profile Image for Leslie Chen.
10 reviews12 followers
September 16, 2019
What stood out in the story was the character development. Biswas’s writing reminded me of so many past masters of storytelling from India but also had hints of one of my favourite writers today Kate Atkinson, who is a big voice in literary crime fiction.
Oh yes I would classify this as literary crime fiction in the use of the crime genre to criticise Indian society (and also all Asian societies if you like) for its patriarchy and treatment of women.
It has been said that an important element of story-telling is the ability of the writer to make the reader relate to the characters. Well, honestly, I couldn't relate that well with many of the characters. But Biswas still succeeded in making me care about them.
Anjali was probably the character I could relate to the least, but I could still see and empathise with her predicament. Maybe it was because she was half-white and half-Indian. Does that make me racist? I'm not sure. It was the same for me with Jatin. I saw him as feckless and a typical male character who thought he was protective but was actually part of a corrupt system and patriarchy.
The characters I wanted to see more of were Maya and Pawan and they were the two I could relate to the most. Throughout the story I could see that while they were merely the supporting cast (and they appeared to know and understand their roles as such) they demonstrated admirable qualities of loyalty and a penchant for doing the right thing.
For me they were the real heroes. I would like to see more of them.
Ultimately Biswas succeeds so well in bringing together the story towards the end.
So dare I hope for a sequel? The ending felt like the start of another book perhaps?
Profile Image for CYIReadBooks (Claire).
562 reviews84 followers
October 26, 2020
You Beneath Your Skin proved to be an interesting read. Set in the country of India, you are transported into the crime fighting world of Police Commissioner Jatin Bhatt.

After a series of gruesome murders of prostitutes, Jatin is tasked to investigate the atrocious acts of violence upon those women — rape, and acid disfigurement, with the remains left in trash bags scattered throughout the city.

Jatin’s investigation isn’t an easy one. Corruption abounds and his life is further complicated by a loveless marriage along with his involvement with Dr. Anjali Morgan and her autistic son, Nikhil.

Character and plot development in this novel were well executed. What really troubled me was the constant barrage of Indian terms. Not being familiar with the language, I found myself skimming through the italicized items hoping that I wouldn’t miss anything.

Overall an enjoyable read. If you’re familiar with the Indian language, more power to you. I rated this book 3.5 stars rounded up.

I received a digital copy of the book from the author, Damyanti Biswas. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.
Profile Image for Michelle.
264 reviews66 followers
October 6, 2019
A well-paced, multi-layered and highly addictive crime thriller in which the reader comes face to face with the stark reality of the New Delhi underworld; a world where women are attacked and disfigured by acid on the crime-ridden streets; a world which introduces you to dark and disturbing places where rape, prostitution, drug abuse, murder and corruption are commonplace.
In a broader context, this timeous story reinforces crimes against women, since it is well known that femicide seems to be increasing around the world.

The raw and gritty contents, with close attention to detail, evoke a range of emotions including disbelief, anger, shock and horror as the reader is drawn into this atmospheric setting, a shadowy world enhanced by the cold and smog that swirls about. It is obvious that the author has a strong passion for the subject matter, evident in the amount of research needed to produce a story of this calibre.

The credibility of the characters is revealed through their strengths and weaknesses as they struggle to deal with personal and professional challenges, and also through the increasingly difficult situations that arise, due to their lives being intertwined, which leads to painful family dynamics.

I enjoyed this gripping page-turner with its twists and turns that will keep you on the edge until the ending, which was not what I expected!
Highly recommended!
10 reviews
October 1, 2019
You Beneath Your Skin is a remarkable debut novel. Set in Delhi, it covers themes of political and police corruption, acid attacks, the position of women in Indian society, drug trafficking, bringing up an autistic child, and family and personal relationships which develop intriguingly and utterly convincingly throughout the book. Without giving too much away, there were countless moments when I felt my attention riveted by the words on the page, for example the descriptions of the shock of an acid attack and the moment when a victim first saw her reflection in a mirror.

Damyanti is such a skillful writer, enabling the reader to understand the world she writes about, and depicts horrific situations without recourse to graphic description or overblown language. That to me is truly great writing.

There are so many reasons to admire Damyanti, not least that all proceeds of sales of the book will be shared between two charities, Stop Acid Attacks, and Project Why, the latter having been very close to my heart since I volunteered there more than a decade ago.
Profile Image for Shivani Adib.
Author 11 books11 followers
October 10, 2019
It takes more than brains to craft a story like this, it takes heart.
Damyanti Biswas is a natural, bringing vividly to life the characters in 'You Beneath Your Skin'. This is a very well-written, poignant story that delves into a murky world where crime, corruption, and power games run rampant. The story begins promisingly and becomes increasingly gripping as the plot develops into a rollercoaster ride of surprising twists and dark turns. The author slides beneath the skin of her characters with amazing dexterity, breathing life into them with all their distinct personalities, emotions, strengths, failings, to present a compelling tale that explores the best and worst of humanity, meshing love and malevolence, bleakness and hope. A stellar debut indeed!
Profile Image for Samantha Gonsalves.
341 reviews27 followers
July 8, 2020
You Beneath Your Skin is one of the most realistic books I've read in a while. It forces you to think about tragic issues like acid- attack victims, bringing up a child with special needs. I was shocked, scared, outraged & hooked on to the book till the very end. The story of Anjali Morgan was portrayed so beautifully & it felt so real at all times. There were essentially two cases in the story, I felt the focus shift to Anjali's case, halfway through the book. The presence of some Hindi words & dialogues in the chapters have it a more authentic feeling. I was a bit disappointed to see the ending & hoped there was more than just that, but in keeping with the authenticness of the story the ending was entirely plausible. I found it very difficult to accept the ending. I loved the characters of Anjali, Nikhil & Maya. I did not like Jatin's character at all. This book took me on a roller-coaster of emotions. It was dark & compelling.

Thank You, NetGalley and Damyanti Biswas for an arc!
November 5, 2019

Also Posted on For The Love of Fictional Worlds

Disclaimer: A physical copy was provided via Simon and Schuster India and the Author as part of the Blog Tour. The Thoughts, opinions & feelings expressed in the review are therefore, my own.

It’s hard to believe, at first glance that You Beneath Your Skin is the author’s debut novel – there is quite the sophistication in the way that the plot is put forward and the way it grips the reader’s attention, that is only found in  the seasoned writers.

Set in New Delhi, India; You Beneath Your Skin, is a psychological crime thriller that shows the city I live in, in an entirely new perspective.

While the book has a multitude of characters within its pages, the primary focus is on Anjali Morgan, a psychiatrist by trade and a mother to a teenage autistic son, whose past is shrouded in mystery, but she has now settled in her life in Delhi, well as settled as she can be, with the challenges of raising an autistic son and a decade long affair with a married man; Jatin Bhatt.

Our second protagonist, Jatin Bhatt; an ACP with the Delhi Police; has his own demons to deal with – his professional life is steeped in corruption, a game that he has no choice but to play, if he wants the coveted seat of CP of Delhi Police. His marriage is nothing to write home about, complicated with his affair with Anjali, but his pride and joy is his teenage son, Varun.

Riding along is Jatin’s Father In Law and his boss, the current CP and his sister; Anjali’s roommate, Maya, who works as a private detective and suffers from a skin disease that has hampered her social life greatly all the while helping with some of Jatin’s cases.

When women start being brutally raped and murdered, Jatin sees this highlighted case as a chance to further his career; but neither of our players realise just how very close to home this case will hit for all of them.

Like I said, at the start of the review, this book doesn't feel or read like a debut novel; the way the author put forth an atmospheric New Delhi in the middle of winter along with the feeling of the spookiness that is so October-ish that it makes for the perfect read to immerse yourself in the spooky month of October.

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Profile Image for Yosh.
7 reviews
September 18, 2019
I really enjoyed Damyanti Biswas’ You Beneath Your Skin. It has a gripping storyline and a nice assortment of characters. They all move through the world with different emotions and motivations, and all of them are vivid, believable, and sympathetic. I like how skillfully the author interwove the family and thriller aspects of the book, as well as the larger themes of misogyny and patriarchy. It’s a great framework handled well. I also liked the author’s prose—it is both stylish and accessible. The only problem I had with the book was after a gripping opening chapter, it spends several chapters setting things up—tons of characters, all of whom use different names for each other which is confusing to this non-Indian reader, and a lot of little plot elements, etc. But once it took off around page 60, I couldn’t put it down. I also liked the ending very much—the author finished it up in a satisfying way without sacrificing the depth. Overall I highly recommend this book.
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