cover image Cromartie V. the God Shiva

Cromartie V. the God Shiva

Rumer Godden. William Morrow & Company, $22 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-688-15550-6

Based on a real incident that occurred a decade ago, this assured novel by 89-year-old Godden (Black Narcissus, etc.) concerns a sensational case brought by the Hindu god Shiva, ""acting through the government of India,"" against a wealthy Canadian, Sydney Carstairs Cromartie, who buys a small, 11th-century bronze statue of Shiva in Toronto. Cromartie takes the figurine to a highly reputable London art dealer, where a staff member informs the Indian government that the priceless artifact has likely been stolen. The partners in a prestigious set of chambers in London's Inns of Court overcome their fear of appearing ridiculous and assign the case to young Michael Dean, who was born and raised in India. Dean returns to his homeland to investigate and stays at Patna Hall, a quaint beachfront hotel in South India, seen before in Godden's Coromandel Sea Change. Although Dean soon falls for a visiting archeologist, love is not allowed to get in the way of the pursuit of justice; the denouement, however, brings one of the lovers a broken heart. Liberally dabbed with local color, the book is fast-paced--so much so that its concise prose sometimes seems hasty, its simple characterizations verging on the glib. Yet Godden's fans will probably welcome yet another of this veteran novelist's tales of India. (Nov.)