Bombay Ice

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In Leslie Forbes’ first novel, BOMBAY ICE, Roz Bengal, a freelance radio journalist, leaves England for India ostensibly to report on Bollywood, the filmmaking capital in Bombay, and the coming monsoon season, but she is really concerned about Miranda, her half-sister. Married to Prosper Sharma, a famous director, and pregnant with her first child, Miranda suspects Prosper may have murdered Maya, his first wife and the star of his films.

The half-Scottish, half-Indian Roz is haunted by her childhood memories of India, by her Indian father’s abandoning her and her mother, and by her mother’s subsequent death. Looking into the murder of Sami, a transvestite with mysterious ties to Prosper, Roz becomes involved with Caleb Mistry, once Prosper’s protege, now his rival in the film industry. Roz uncovers a steamy morass in which the deaths of Maya and Sami seem linked to possible blackmail against powerful figures in the government and a ring of art forgers and smugglers. All unwinds against the backdrop of Roz’s lifelong fascination with weather, the monsoon, and the troubled film version of Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST on which Prosper has been working for years, stealing Caleb’s ideas in the process.

Forbes, a Canadian travel writer and broadcaster based in England, handles character development, setting, and mood much better than she does the mystery elements. She aims for a moral ambiguity reminiscent of the works of Ruth Rendell and James Ellroy, but what is most memorable about BOMBAY ICE are her vivid characters, especially Roz, who has her own dark secret, and the detailed portrait of the poverty, corruption, and strange beauty of Bombay.