Review: Her Beautiful Monster by Adi Tantimedh

Her Beautiful Monster by Adi Tantimedh is the second book in the Ravi PI series, where Ravi ends up on the run in Los Angeles with a car full of stolen guns, chased by killers as the city is surrounded by a ring of fire (available January 23, 2018).

Let’s start with the most obvious fact about this book: that really is Sendhil Ramamurthy on the cover! He was terrific in the TV show Heroes (full disclaimer: I never got around to watching Heroes Reborn), and oh boy was I mad when The Office’s Kelly gave in to her shallowness and dumped his character Ravi after her ex-boyfriend Ryan’s incredibly terrible declaration of love or whatever that was supposed to be. Mr. Ramamurthy has since been selected to embody another Ravi, the reluctant private investigator this supernatural mystery series is named for. Given how cinematic the books have been so far, it’s very easy to imagine him in the role of a PI catching bad guys while having the occasional existential crisis brought about by his circumstances.

Ravi Chandra Singh, you see, is a former religious scholar turned former secondary school teacher, fired to cover up a scandal where he tried to do the right thing and protect a student from another teacher. At a loose end, he accepted a friend’s offer to interview with the Golden Sentinels detective agency, based in London. In the second book of the series, Her Beautiful Monster, he’s still coming to terms with the amoral nature of his work and colleagues.

Oh, did I mention that none of this is helped by the fact that he also sees gods? The Hindu pantheon appears to him unexpectedly, just walking around like ordinary people, though invisible to the eyes of those around him:

The gods were looking awfully flash these days. Whenever they showed up, I could recognize them by their blue skin and the symbols of their power—the headdresses, the weapons, the scepters, the lotuses in their hands—but they wore what everyone was wearing on the streets of London. Ganesha, watching over us from on high in his infinite patience and wisdom, wore a baseball cap and bomber jacket. Shiva had taken to nice suits. Kali seemed to like to mix it up on the streets and wear a leather jacket and jeans. And Bagalamuhkhi—today she was wearing an expensive tracksuit, texting the other gods about what we were up to and having a laugh.

Ravi is convinced these sightings are just hallucinations brought about by the stressful situations he inevitably finds himself in due to work—such as in his latest case, where a Russian oligarch has died in the bath after gaining respectability by marrying into a landed but cash-poor English family. The oligarch’s ex-wife and teenage son—who had been resettled in a small London flat after raising a big stink over how he’d abandoned them in the mother country—have since gone missing. Golden Sentinels has been hired to find them in order to facilitate the reading of the will, and Ravi has been made primary, a job that will have him dealing with some of his second least-favorite people: spies.

For where there are spies, there is chaos. In the aftermath of the case, Golden Sentinels decides to give Ravi and Julia—his girlfriend and another employee of the firm—a working vacation by having them visit and learn from the Los Angeles branch. Ravi doesn’t quite know what to make of LA:

The light was different in Los Angeles.

I couldn't get used to it.

People told me it was the smog. It served as a kind of filter for the way sunlight seeped through the air and onto the city, giving it a kind of hallucinatory sheen. At dusk, as night descended, the dying glow of the day was particularly surreal and vivid. No wonder the entertainment industry was headquartered here. Fantasies could only be born out of a city that wasn't quite real, a city that had been brought into existence through sheer will and desire. Los Angeles was like a message forced to take solid form at the hands of men who impressed their vision in the otherwise desolate desert landscape. I was fascinated by the cracks in the road that always needed to be mended, the continuing shift of tectonic plates, the erasure of the city's own history as old buildings were constantly demolished in favor of the new. Like its inhabitants, this city was obsessed with always appearing young. Its permanent default state was a battle against entropy. All it took was money and power. I'd swapped the gray, wet dystopia of London for the blazing, sun-blasted dystopia of LA.

The gods, by the way, have followed Ravi over—much to his chagrin—and are absolutely rapt over his involvement in what are supposed to be routine check-ins with celebrity clients. Of course, with California brush fires exacerbated by the Santa Ana winds, more chaos is almost certainly in the cards. All hell breaks loose when guns, despots, and Ravi’s actual least-favorite people, black-ops mercenaries, enter the picture.

Her Beautiful Monster is a fun romp across continents (there’s even a cool subplot involving one of Ravi’s co-workers doing an off-the-books job in Hong Kong) with interesting characters and thrilling scenarios that would be perfect for TV. The line illustrations of the Hindu gods were also a lovely touch. I’m very much enjoying the multimedia nature of this project, and I am intrigued as to where it will go with the final book of the trilogy.

See also: Review: Her Nightly Embrace by Adi Tantimedh

 

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Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She microblogs on Twitter @dvaleris.

Read all posts by Doreen Sheridan for Criminal Element.

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