Bollywood Storm II

Elanna shimmies and gyrates with fluid ease to the pulsating beat of an Indian skaa-bangra-hop fusion band in a steaming Mumbai nightclub. No, wait. That’s not Elanna, the psychic criminologist from New York City. She’s only sharing the experiences of a hedonistic thrill-seeker named Christine.

It’s a long story, and an exciting one, that began with the untimely deaths of Bollywood producer-director Rajesh Sharma and a number of his illegitimate sons and daughters in the book Bollywood Storm. Elanna Forsyth George has taken on the task of discovering the murderer of Sharma and the others — ostensibly killed over a contested will drawn up by Sharma in his dying days.

This is a powerful, well-wrought sequel to the first book, offering further insight into Elanna’s intriguing character — and revealing vividly what it must be like to be the unwilling psychic channel for spirits both living and dead. Frequently, Elanna must struggle to avoid being lost amid the storm of sudden immersion in another’s mind and body. And the writer, N.K.Johel, delivers an even more masterful writing performance in Book II than in the first part, frequently throwing Elanna — and the reader — into these fascinating dream-states, in which Elanna feels and experiences episodes both erotic and grim.

Cut to the interior of Mumbai’s exclusive Extemporaneous Glorious Gate Hotel. Elanna is there in deep disguise, “cloaked” by fellow psychic agent Harshad Verma. Together with co-agent Laila Durga, they are tracking one of the most dangerous goondas in the world — a stone-cold killer named Johnny Akkhara. To make matters worse, his paramystical abilities are said to be the equal of any of the three currently shadowing him.

Then, it’s later. Much later. Months have gone by and no one has seen Elanna. The worst is feared. Suddenly, she shows up, sheathed and morphed into the body of a beautiful young South Asian woman named Rakhi. Elanna’s been hijacked, body and soul, through the supernatural skills of the Mother of Time, Kaali Ma. Elanna struggles night and day to regain her identity and resume her hunt for the killer.

Where does it all end in this wildly imaginative mystery? This second book has turned into Ellery Queen meets Stephen King — and it’s all utterly believable, so skilled is the author at portraying the deep dilemma in which Elanna finds herself. And, again, the out-of-body sequences are superb. The reader will be rooting for Elanna to break free before it’s too late.

But wait. Who’s the tall, elderly man with a beige turban, wearing a matching kurta and pajamas with red, black and gold mojan on his feet?

She’s hijacked again, and from there the story twists and dips delightfully as Elanna encounters a young Rajesh Sharma, beguiles Bollywood’s leading lady, and has an ill-fated rendezvous with members of the Mumbai mob.

Through it all, this talented storyteller keeps us firmly grounded in believability, infusing the narrative with hundreds of Hindi phrases that make the reader feel that he is actually in Mumbai, experiencing all the rich diversity that India has to offer.

As to the question of how Rajesh Sharma died, along with a half-dozen of his sons and daughters, the author ties up all the loose ends in an exciting and thrill-packed ending that should satisfy even the most discerning mystery lovers — not to mention those with a love of all things paranormal.

Five stars to Bollywood Storm, Book II. The door is open for more psychic adventures by this amazing new breed of crime-solving heroine. Let’s hope she steps through that door, and takes us with her.

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