Nancy Miller
November 05, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Indra Sinha’s debut, The Death of Mr. Love is a boisterous, unpredictable whirl of a novel. At the center rests an intriguing thriller based on a real-life event. On a sweltering Bombay evening in 1959, a caddish Indian playboy is shot dead, his love triangle involving two high-society British women scandalously revealed. From there, the story lurches forward 40 years to late-’90s London, where Bhalu, a quietly despairing expat bookseller grieving the loss of his mother, uncovers a connection between his family and the death of ”Mr. Love.” At times, eccentric characters (weirdo neighbors, wacky psychics), splashy subplots (the return of Bhalu’s childhood sweetheart threatens his marriage), and torrents of historical backstory drown out the core mystery: Who killed Mr. Love? Fortunately, Sinha’s exquisite eye for detail, especially scenery (”The hills crouched like beasts around the lake, reaching rocky tongues to the water”), keep this ambitious tale afloat.

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