Review: Deepa Anappara's Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line is a compelling and unforgettable debut
Nine-year-old Jai watches way too many reality cop shows. So, when a boy from his school goes missing, he decides to use the skills he's learned from the crime shows and try and find them.
He enlists the help of his school friends Faiz and Pari on his detective mission, with the trio becoming the 'Djinn Patrol.' Together, they explore some of the most dangerous parts of the city: the bazaar at night, and even the railway station at the end of the Purple Line.
Deepa Anappara's debut Djinn on The Purple Line begins with the disappearance of Bahadur, a shy and quiet boy from Jai's class who has been missing for a few days before anybody notices.
Faiz initially suspects that he was abducted by a mythical djinn, a theory that the trio have a lot easier time believing - and one that they almost find comforting - compared to the idea of kidnappers with drug-laced sweets and treats or child killers.
But then another local boy, Omvir, goes missing. And then Aanchal vanishes. And then Chandi. And then Kabir and Khadifa.
Jai, Faiz and Pari trawl through the local bazaar and chase whatever leads they stumble upon. And as they try and find out what has really happened, they must confront terrified parents, an indifferent police force and soul-snatching djinns in order to uncover the truth.
“This is not the kind of story parents tell their children as they fall asleep. But it’s good that you’re hearing it. You should know what our world is really like.”
The book is divided into three different sections, with different voices interspersed through the Djinn Patrol's investigations.
There's the bulk of the book, which is narrated by Jai, who - along with his friends - views the entire story through a seemingly-unwavering veil of innocence.
And then there are the terrifying stand-alone chapters, told from the perspectives of the missing children in the moments before they vanish, which add another gripping layer from the story.
Anappara skilfully navigates through the different narrative voices, making it near impossible for the reader not to feel invested in their stories.
And while Djinn starts off feeling a bit more like an adventure novel - the story of three plucky heroes, who are trying to do the right thing - it feels like a completely different novel by the end, as the harsh realities of what really happened settle in.
Without verging into spoiler territory, Djinn On The Purple Line comes to a head in a gripping and heartbreaking final part - where the 'detectiving' mask begins to lift, and a version of the truth emerges - that will stay with readers for a long time to come.
- Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara, Chatto & Windus, £14.99