Chandra's collection of interconnected stories begins in an out-of-the-way bar in Bombay, as an enigmatic civil servant, Mr. Subramaniam, recounts an extraordinary sequence of tales to those seated around him. Each of the tales is rich in character and atmosphere and falls into a distinct genre: "Dharma" is a ghost story in which a soldier recuperating from a leg amputation discovers that his house is haunted by the spirit of a young child; "Kama" follows a detective as he investigates a murder and discovers a web of sexual and political misdoings; and in the love story, "Shanti," a twin brother is consumed by his love for a married woman.
A young man suffering the anguish of lost love accompanies a friend to a seaside bar where he falls under the spell of an . . . older man named Subramaniam. Each night, Subramaniam tells a story that distracts and comforts Chandra's unhappy protagonist. . . . In 'Dharma,' a ghost story, an old soldier confronts his past. 'Shakti' is a tale of fierce rivalry between two shrewd and ambitious high-society women; and 'Kama' is a . . . murder mystery. Booklist