In story after story, secrets underlie the foundation of the telling. The storyline and the characters owe their genesis to that which lies cloaked from the rest of the world. So if it is a tumour in one, it is a past life in another; a bastard child in yet another...and such is the dexterity with which Basu writes that the 12 separate stories meld together to become a book of evocation.
Sure, some stories work better than the others. As in any collection, there are stories that flag; characters that fail to work. And so if stories such as Snake Charmer and Lenin’s Cafe totter precariously; the sheer power and muscle of Long Live Imelda Marcos and The Accountant make up more than adequately.
More than anything else, Basu has a great talent for weaving in drama into the everyday. The kite fight in The Japanese Wife or the wrenching of the fish bone from the forest officer’s throat in Tiger! Tiger!...such scenes are what make the collection singular. In the end what one remembers is the splendid and the remarkable. And that glimmer of an acerbic wit.