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.