Exotic, crime thriller!

Kishwar Desai's Witness the Night is a twisted tale of murder, envy, and age-old prejudice set in small Indian city.
 
Kishwar Desai, an Indian journalist and daughter of Indian police detective takes on the hidden world female infanticide and police corruption in her compelling debut novel.
 
As the story opens, social worker, Simran Singh returns to her home town to investigate a grisly and sensational murder. She has been called in to assess Durga, a 14-year-old girl who has been accused of murdering her entire family. The girl has been found in her burned-out home, covered in blood.
 
The authorities can’t decide if Durga has been raped, or if Durga has killed her family to cover up an illicit love affair. And Durga is not talking.
 
As Simran investigates she becomes convinced that the girl is being railroaded for her sizable inheritance.
 
Simran must face ghosts from her own past as she runs into old friends and rivals as she uncovers dangerous secrets while searching for the truth.
 
Witness the Night is fascinating portrait of a culture caught between the old world and the new. Kishwar Desai also offers a chilling look at how greed can motivate ordinary people to commit hideous acts of evil.
 
I loved the gruff and quirky character of Simran, and cannot wait for her next appearance.
 

Witness the Night is an unusual and thrilling read that will delight the fans of crime

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Envy, murder and polygamy

The Secret Lives of the Four Wives by Lola Shoneyin tackles the subject of polygamous marriage. The story is set in Nigeria where polygamy is still allowed. Shoneyin paints a horrifying picture of the competitive nature of polygamy and how it twists the lives of women who are forced into it.
 
Bolanle is a university graduate with a terrible secret. She tries to escape her horrible guilt by marrying Baba Segi and becoming his fourth wife. Bolanle has no idea of the snake pit that she will be thrown into when she becomes the fourth wife. The other wives are threatened by her education. And even though Baba Segi is a generous and easy-going husband by local standards, he is unaware of the turmoil, hate, and secrets that rule his household.
 
This is riveting tale of jealousy, hatred, murdered, and secrets. It is also a masterful picture of how polygamy twists the lives and personalities of the women and children who are part of it. I could not put down The Secret Lives of the Four Wives.  You’ll never look at shows like Sister Wives or Big Love the same way again.
 
(Note: According to the publisher, The Secret Lives of the Four Wives was published in 2010 in a slightly-altered form as The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives.)
 
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Cutting down the tall poppies

Success, a husband, baby, and being thin too --made Bethenny Frankel a "Tall poppy"Cutting down the tall poppies” is a British expression for tearing down people who stand out because of their success. I learned it years ago from a friend who had studied in Australia. I liked the term immediately; it so aptly describes behavior I had witnessed so often. I think most of us who strive to do well have felt that scythe of resentment.

 
Recently, talk show host Joy Behar told Bethenny Frankel that she (Frankel) was the most hated women in America along with journalist Helen Thomas. Behar was only half joking. Thomas, the former senior White House journalist, had resigned after making some infamously anti-Semitic remarks about the Middle East situation. Bethenny – famous for her Skinnygirl books, exercise DVD, and cocktails – lost her baby weight quickly. Too quickly it seems for an envious and competitive society.
 
Behar seemed to relish shoveling coals onto the “hate” fires burning for Frankel. She even bet Bethenny that she did not weigh the 122 to 123 pounds that 5’4” Frankel said she weighed. Bethenny demanded a scale. She weighed 122. She credits her rapid weight loss to sensible eating during her pregnancy, exercise before and after the birth of her baby, and genetics.
 
I have read pure vitriol about Bethenny’s weight loss. Comments have ranged from those who say she is still fat to those who say she had aa tummy-tuck with her C-section to restore her figure. Both allegations are ludicrous.
 
All were to be expected. Bethenny is doing well and that is something many people just can stand. They love the underdog, but the underdog had better watch her back if and when she makes a comeback. Envy can turn that same cheering section into a nasty, critical mob. Bethenny has become a tall poppy and that’s a dangerous thing to be these days – even in America.
 
People loved Bethenny because she wasn’t the rich spoiled wife on The Real Housewives of New York. She had to work for her success. She didn’t have a huge New York apartment or a husband bankrolling her. She was flawed, humble, and relatable.
 
Now Bethenny has found her prince, moved into her Tribeca castle, and is even thin. Is “happily ever after” interesting? Is it even forgivable? Will her fans relate to her as a happily married wife and mother?
 
If you don’t care about reality TV, I have probably lost you. But there is a lesson here for all of us. That’s why I find these shows so interesting. Helen Gurley Brown, the creator and brilliant editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, advised her readers to “keep two sets of books”. Darlings, she wasn’t talking about accounting. She was warning her readers about envy. She has seen how success, even smaller ones you may not think about, can make enemies.
 
She wasn’t advising her readers to hide their light under a bustle, or not try to get ahead, but to be smart about it.
 
On your way up – especially in this rough economy – realize that not everyone, even friends, are going to be thrilled for your success or support your plans. Pick your advisers and confidants carefully. Even non-business successes can make friends act a little crazy.
 
When I quit smoking on the advice of my doctor after years of social smoking, I went cold turkey. I had a fear of gaining weight – and I already had few extra pounds I could stand to lose. So I quit smoking and went on a diet and exercise regime. I didn’t tell anyone, even my husband. It may sound crazy, but it worked for me.
 
After four weeks I lost about eight pounds and knew I had quit. I finally told people as they noticed. One friend was so upset by my success that she actually said “I think this has stressed you out and maybe you should smoke again.” Luckily, I was not stressed out at all. I was in such a good mood; I just let her comment go. I knew that she was not in a good place with her own career or weight. It was irrational, but my little quiet success annoyed her. Her comment was hurtful, but I chose to let it go. I could afford to be generous because I was feeling really good. And this person is really a nice person; she was just going through a really bad patch.
 
There have been other times when things have not been so easy or simple. I can still remember battling acne before I found my magic dermatologists. I will never understand people who make rude comments to anyone about acne, weight, or anything personal. When some fool would ask or say some thing rude, I knew I was doing everything possible to stop my skin from breaking out.
 
I am sure it was those early experiences that helped me cultivate what some have told me is my intimidating or confident – depending on your point of view – air. It also gave me a lifelong distaste for awkwardness and bullies. I dislike personal and awkward questions aimed at anyone. This behaviour always comes from envy and meanness.
 
It’s smart to grow a thicker skin – or like me the appearance of one. If you aim to be successful and stand out at something, get ready for those who want to cut you down. Learn when to blow it off and how to counter it coolly and calmly.
 
Work fills a lifetime. You will be in and out of fashion; it is inevitable. Enjoy the good times and be assured the bad ones will pass. If you are smart you will learn to cherish longevity. Your true friends will sustain you through the tough times. But real friends help you in the good times, too.
 
Recently a friend, who is a brilliant and successful women in her own field, did me wonderful turn professionally. She is generous and helpful. She says it all comes back to her. I know like myself, she enjoys life among the tall poppies. Darlings, there are always going to be those who want chop you down. Don’t waste your time on them. Just learn how to duck and then stretch to sun.
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The dreaded schadenbitch

Envy seems to be at the heart of most schadenbitchesAre you inspired by your friend’s success? Do you like to surround yourself with brilliant successful women? I do. Or, my darlings, are you affected by the current wave of schadenbitch? I’ve seen this new disturbing term recently and it struck a chord. I have always been a fan of the word schadenfruden. It so adeptly describes a behaviour I deplore – relishing the misfortune of others. I find it despicable and tiresome. I live by the adage that if I serve someone up as dinner conversation, she will serve me up for dessert when I am not around. If you believe otherwise, you are dangerously naïve.

 
Some women boast they are “a man’s woman” or “one of boys” – and by that they don’t mean tomboys or sports-lovers. These wannabe queen bees eschew the company of women for men. They are often dismissive and nasty to those of their own sex. Ironically, they are often not any more popular with most men than they are they are with women. Men don’t trust their hostility towards their own. Unless they infiltrate a group of men attached to their brothers or use some other camouflage, they are most likely not welcome.
 
What perplexes me are women who are threatened by their friends’s accomplishments. A woman I was close to for a while, another writer, became upset when anyone she knew got a book contract or won an award. She had published her own book and done well with it. I never understood why she was this way. She could never be happy for the other person or inspired to work harder. This envy permeated her life in other areas too. She envied attractive people and those she perceived to have successful relationships. It is hard to think of much she didn’t envy.
 
Another woman I know runs through friends quickly. She too is afflicted by the green-eye monster. She has a laundry list of complaints against others, and how they have slighted her. She imagines others have stolen her ideas or insulted her. No matter what job, assignment, or luck comes her way, the plums always go to others.  
 
Women like this may attain some professional success. The two women I mentioned are bright and talented, but will never attain the success and fulfillment they would if they didn’t have such toxic habits.
 
Another friend is a young woman already making a splash in a glamorous profession. She works 24/7 and still has a way to go before she makes the big bucks, but she has made a great start in a tough business. She has noticed some her friends are not thrilled with her success. It hurts.
 
I understand how she feels and have encouraged her to wait it out. But in the end she will need to find friends who enjoy her success. I have had similar experiences. I will never forget one older friend who had always told me to “do more” professionally. When I returned from Russia after being part of the launch team of Russian Vogue, she was quite mean about the new direction my career had taken. She made cutting remarks. I was shocked. Eventually, we both moved on. Now, I think I understand how she felt, but I think she made a mistake in how she reacted. She had married a very successful older man, raised four children, and did lot of charity work. That was how we met. She is bright and ambitious. She had planned to do many exciting things when he retired. That did not happen. She tried a career cooking, something she is good at it, but she didn’t get far with it. I suspect her husband had different plans and wanted a quieter life. She could have opted to get some support for her dreams from her friends. I would have given it, unquestioningly. That is my style. It is how my friends operate.
 
I don’t understand women who don’t cherish their close women friends. My friends have always been a great source of support, love, and pure enjoyment. I relish their company and can’t imagine life without them. 
 
I love the sound of their voices, their laughter, and even their quirks. I have always taken great pride in their accomplishments.  I think of them as a string of highly-polished jewels –each one precious, rare, and treasured.
 
We can get on get on each other nerves at times. But the wonderful thing about maintaining friendships over the years is the way the edges get smoothed away.
Some friendships have not stood the test of time, but that too is often for the best.
 
The friends I have made and kept over the years have shared this same excitement at meeting a new talented friend. We delight in the process of discovery and celebrate accomplishment!
 
Darlings, look to other women as source of inspiration! Glory in their accomplishments. Your friends will sustain you over the years. And whatever you do, avoid the dreaded schadenbitches and their toxic behaviour.
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