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Bombay Ice Hardcover – July, 1998

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux; 1st American ed edition (July 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374115303
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374115302
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,922,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

What happens when the glitzy world of moviemaking Bombay meets the gritty conventions of film noir? With luck, something like this dazzlingly ambitious novel from Canadian journalist Leslie Forbes. "I haven't seen the eunuch in almost four weeks. Ignore what I wrote you before. No need to come here and rescue me," Miranda Sharma writes her sister from Bombay, in a disconcertingly "schizophrenic" postcard that sends Rosalind Bengal across continents and deep into a world where nothing is what it seems. Part Scottish, part Indian, Roz is a crime journalist who can't help following a good lead when it appears, especially when her sister's welfare is at stake. Miranda recently married one of the Indian film industry's most prominent directors, Prosper Sharma, a man who's spent 20 years working on a movie version of The Tempest and who is rumored to have murdered his first wife. After her postcard, four hijra--eunuchs or transvestites--are found drowned in an eight week period, one of them with alleged connections to the film industry. Coincidence or not, Roz feels compelled to investigate.

What follows is a most unusual thriller, and not just by virtue of its setting. Crackling with wordplay and allusion, and set against a city that resembles nothing so much as a stage set under construction, the hyper-literate Bombay Ice sports influences ranging from Shakespeare to Sunset Boulevard, chaos theory to Raymond Chandler. In between meditations on alchemy, entropy, and the science of weather, Forbes constructs an intricate story charged with all the tension of the coming monsoon. The result is never less than interesting, even when, as occasionally happens, the book's intellectual concerns threaten to overpower its plot.

From Publishers Weekly

Fans of An Instance of the Fingerpost will find Forbes's debut novel an equally intricate literary thriller suffused with exotic atmosphere. The distinctive element here is not historical but cultural and climatic: the imminent arrival of the monsoon in Bombay, India, is juxtaposed with the escalating tension as protagonist Roz Bengal (aka Rosalind Benegal), a London-based radio producer and filmer of crime videos for TV, races to find a murderer before she and her sister Miranda suffer the consequences. Born in India and named by her pedant father after Shakespeare's heroine (one of many such allusions to the Bard), Roz has returned after a long absence, summoned by a cryptic note from a pregnant Miranda hinting that her husband, famed film producer Prosper Sharma, murdered his first wife, an aging movie star who was proving an impediment to his movie of The Tempest. The death of several hijras (eunuchs who are transvestites) is the first clue to Roz that her brother-in-law is connected to the criminal underworld, to corrupt government officials and to a disreputable forger of coins and antiques. As her investigation proceeds, Roz has opportunities to discourse about the science of weather prediction, the chemical properties of poison, the art of gilding and the technique of lost wax casting, among other esoteric subjects. With her swimmer's shoulders, grunge haircut and insouciant attitude, Roz is a quixotic heroine: reckless and full of bluff and bravado, she is also a two-fisted and indiscriminate drinker and a woman who allows herself to be abused during sex. The reasons for her self-destructive behavior do not become completely clear until the end of the novel, but meanwhile there is plenty of violence and gore (including ritual torture and a bucket of blood), plus betrayals, chases, a striking cobra and lots of red herrings. The drawback to the digression-prone narrative is a loss of tension: the threat of murder almost becomes secondary to the flow of information on the seamy side of the "Bollywood" film industry, the quotidian reality of high-level corruption in government and the wretched lives of India's masses. Yet it's this bombardment of rich detail that makes the story interesting, augmented by Forbes's striking imagery and a progression of colorful and eccentric characters. Major ad/promo; rights sold in Holland, Germany, Italy and Sweden; audio rights to Soundelux Audio. (July) FYI: A Canadian who attended London's Royal College of Art, Forbes is a travel and food writer (A Table in Tuscany) and produces shows for BBC's Radio 4.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

Which is too bad.
The way she was portrayed actually CHANGED halfway through the book (where was the editor of this book?).
Tommie Niland
Also, there's enough content in this novel to make it worth reading a second time.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on July 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Leslie Forbes's talents of narrative and description and her desire to go far beyond the limits of the usual murder mystery make this reader anxious to read her second novel. This novel, however, is her first novel, and here her reach results in a lack of focus and confusion about the main character's motivation. Is the heroine's mission to find out who, if anyone, killed her brother-in-law's first wife, in order to save her sister from the same fate? Is it to solve the mystery of who is killing the hijras and why? Is it to uncover an art forgery and smuggling operation? Is it to reveal the slimy underside of contemporary politics? Is it to find out who she really is?
Here it seems to be all the above. With a half Scottish, half Indian heroine who is also an illegitimate child, in addition to eunuchs, transvestites, movie stars and directors, art collectors and forgers, politicians, and killers, the reader has a lot of characters to try to keep in focus. To this melange the author adds deliberate parallels between this action in Bombay monsoon season, Shakespeare's The Tempest, and not one, but two, different Indian film versions of it. Embellished also with detailed research into the history of weather prediction, the lost wax method of casting, gilding techniques, the chemical use of poisons, and land reclamation processes, this book is a real cornucopia which would have benefitted from judicious editing to highlight the author's considerable talents and broad vision.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on March 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
In her debut novel, Leslie Forbes' reach exceeds her grasp. Fortunately for the reader, in failing to achieve perfection, she has still surpassed the bulk of the new fiction on the market. "Bombay Ice" is a dizzying, sultry foray into the dark underside of Indian culture.
The reader is pushed and pulled through a host of mind-bending circumstances and events as the heroine searches for her sister's murderer. In gritty detail, the reader is exposed to Bombay, and to a lesser degree, the rest of India through the eyes of someone who both loves and loathes the country.
The downside with this novel is that Forbes tries to tackle too much in one book. "Bombay Ice" is alternately a look at the sociology of modern India, an examination of mental illness, and of course, ultimately, a murder mystery. All of these elements are executed well, to a point; but there is simply not enough time to flesh them out completely and keep the novel moving along. Ironically, this mish-mash of angles confuses the plot and ends up having the positive effect of masking the conclusion.
Forbes is a writer of prodigous talent, and with a little polishing, she will undoubtably win raves in the future. In the meantime, "Bombay Ice" is a very strong effort, and a thoroughly enjoyable novel.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By adamc on September 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I picked up Bombay Ice after reading the John Irving Book "A son of the Circus", also set in India. Clearly Ms. Forbes has a knowledge and love of the country. Unfortunataly, the book tries to do too many things. Mystery, thriller, meditation on the complexity of Indian society, memoir of a young woman's relationship with her parents and sister, critique of the Indian caste system (both formal and informal), mood's just too much.
Which is too bad. The Author has a very good ear for language and despite the density of the content, her prose refrains from being overly weighty.
The books dustcover notes make a game effort at positioning the piece as carrying themes of Chaos (that is 'Chaos', the popular scientific and philosophical notion having to do with patterns in nature, not 'chaos', which is just messy), but I have to believe that that description was an afterthought--a kind of publisher's punt.
I hope that Ms. Forbes writes more books. If she does so, she would be well-advised to tightly frame her subject before layering on her talented prose. This book definitely illustrates the famous line "kill your babies"; with more discipline it could very well have been a nice, absorbing mystery story, perhaps even with a dose of character study thrown in. As it stands, the reader is left pretty much in the same state as the protagonist throughout the story--battered by a monsoon of ideas, words, characters, and cultural ideas, rather than gripped, as he might have.
Adam Caper
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Walt on March 1, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is an over-the-top novel of mystery, history, and drama starring a female, freelance crime reporter churned together into a curry of "Bollywood" and lore of India. If you like a complex mystery that invites multiple readings to fully enjoy it, you'll love this novel; otherwise, read "Season of the Monsoon" by Paul Mann which presents another view of Bollywood and India and a good mystery, too.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 27, 1998
Format: Hardcover
The opening chapter of the book resulted in my being determind to battle through Ms Forbes confusing and exhausting attempts to cover a range of subjects which demand that the reader expends as much energy on following the plot as the heroine does in her pursuit of the truth. At times the temptation to admit defeat loomed large but the need to know where the book would end was greater. Frustration is not always an emotion which leads one to complete a task but in the case of Bombay Ice it is worth overcoming. Hopefully the next novel from the author will focus less on attempts of literary majesty and more on the telling of the story.
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