By Joanne Kaufman FRANCINE PROSE and Beth Perry
Updated January 15, 2007 12:00 PM

by Vikram Chandra




You might think you’ve met Sartaj Singh’s type before: a divorced, lonely-guy cop, fond of booze, on the take, but still a man of principle and conviction. But this detective’s beat is Mumbai—Bombay—and that changes everything. When a gangland kingpin is found dead, the clues lead Singh into the dark heart and the darker underbelly of the metropolis in which he lives. Sacred Games, Chandra’s ambitious, sprawling novel, combines the attractions of 19th-century fiction and a modern police procedural as the plot broadens to include law-abiding citizens and corrupt crime bosses, movie stars and celebrity madams, undercover spymasters and a sketchy guru. Like Chandra’s book, Singh’s investigation adds up to much more than appears on the surface, and we read eagerly to learn what this crime will reveal about the tensions between the Hindus and Muslims, about the political stand-off between India and Pakistan, and about the future—the very survival—of a crowded, colorful city.