The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Adventure - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

TWOnew nov­els set in In­dia have kept me com­pany on re­cent flights. Best of the pair is Aus­tralian author Claire Sco­bie’s (Pen­guin, $29.99), which I first read as a man­u­script; it is 18th-cen­tury south­ern In­dia, bougainvil­lea hangs with blos­soms as thick as grapes and a girl named Maya has been born with a mole on her lower left cheek — it is the sign of the God­dess and marks her des­tiny as the most de­sir­able of tem­ple dancers. Maya’s hoped-for pas­sage to a po­si­tion as favoured cour­te­san of the rul­ing prince is played out against a treach­er­ous back­drop and the grow­ing threat of Bri­tish dom­i­na­tion. Also worth a dip is The Sea of In­no­cence by Kish­war De­sai (Si­mon & Schus­ter, $24.99), a con­tem­po­rary crime novel set in Goa. De­sai al­ludes to real cases — the beach mur­der of Scar­lett Keel­ing in 2008 and the re­cent fa­tal gang rape in Delhi — but her of­ten repet­i­tive style (and sloppy edit­ing) slow down what could have been a pacier plot.

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