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Article: Divya’s debut novel is a thriller on stolen antiques

Following the launch at the SIBF 2018, this interview appeared in one of the region’s leading English dailies, the Khaleej Times

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The fiction title is a fast-paced thriller deal with the issue of idol theft and is a heady mix of crime, mystery, romance and the paranormal.

For debutant Indian novelist Divya Kumar, the protagonist in her maiden book The Shrine of Death had to be a woman. “It was a no-brainer,” she explained to Khaleej Times, after launching her book at the Sharjah International Book Fair late last week.

The Dubai-based author and former journalist’s first book was published by Bloomsbury India in April 2018. The fiction title is a fast-paced thriller deal with the issue of idol theft and is a heady mix of crime, mystery, romance and the paranormal.

“The book is a fictionalised account of actual events that occurred in Tamil Nadu in 2009 when a set of ancient Chola idols disappeared from an abandoned temple and were later discovered to have been smuggled out of the country,” said Kumar.

“This was the watershed case that eventually leads to the high-profile arrest of Manhattan-based art dealer and smuggler Subhash Kapoor.”

The book’s central character – Prabha Sinhan – is an IT professional who gets pulled into the murky world of idol theft and goes in search of her missing friend Sneha Pillai.

“Mainstream Indian media often portrays a certain stereotype of women in mass media. Like a manic pixie dream girl, or a virtuous, pious woman, or an oversexed glam doll, or even a confused, flaky millennial,” she added.

Kumar’s character had to be a relatable, regular young woman who was not epitomised in any manner. “I also wanted my character to be strong, stubborn, and fiercely loyal,” she said.

A former journalist of The Hindu newspaper in India, Kumar moved to Dubai in 2016. “I finished a big chunk of the editing and re-writing process in the UAE,” she added.

Though the book had its first release in India, Kumar said she is extremely proud of being part of the Sharjah book fair.

“I wanted to write fiction for pretty much my whole life. From childhood, I’ve had a set of unfinished books and manuscripts. I worked at The Hindu from 2006 – 2011, but I stopped working full-time after my daughter was born,” she said.

She began seriously working on the novel, and it took shape after details of the Chola idols case unearthed.

“I was still with The Hindu when the bust of the idol smuggling ring was in the news. From a local case in Tamil Nadu, the case went international as it was linked to an international crime ring. It was covered extensively in the India media and I followed it with a lot of interest.”

For Kumar, the theme was a perfect fit for her book as she got increasingly fascinated with the subject. “The plot evolved out the details of the case,” she added.

As she began writing the book, Kumar imagined it to be part of a trilogy. “I am definitely working on a sequel,” she added.

dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com

The original article appeared here in the Khaleej Times.

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‘The Shrine of Death’ launched at the Sharjah International Book Fair 2018!

My debut novel, ‘The Shrine of Death’ was recently launched at the prestigious Sharjah International Book Fair 2018 — the third largest book fair in the world, and the largest in the region!

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Look what’s on the shelf at the SIBF 2018!

Here’s a glowing report of the launch in the Gulf Today

SHARJAH: Debutant Indian novelist Divya Kumar received overwhelming response as she introduced “The Shrine of Death” to booklovers at the ongoing Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF).

Published by Bloomsbury India, the novel was released in India in April 2018 to glowing reviews by the press and readers alike. Since then its arrival was awaited by the UAE book aficionados.

It is a fast-paced thriller dealing with the hot-button issue of idol theft, and has a heady mix of crime, mystery, romance and the paranormal.

During a conversation at the SIBF with the acclaimed poet and author Anuradha Vijayakrishnan, Kumar said that the book is a heavily fictionalised account of actual events that occurred in Tamil Nadu, India, in 2009, when a set of ancient Chola idols disappeared from an abandoned temple, and were later discovered to have been smuggled out of the country. This was the watershed case that eventually led to the high-profile arrest of Manhattan-based art dealer and smuggler Subhash Kapoor.

“The Shrine of Death” tells the story of Prabha Sinha, an IT professional in the south Indian city of Chennai, who is plunged into a murky world of idol theft, murder, and betrayal after she gets a mysterious phone call one night from her old friend Sneha Pillai. As she races to find answers before the people she loves get hurt, she seeks the help of Jai Vadehra, a troubled young man with a tragic past, and police officer Gerard Ratnaraj of the Idol Wing, CID, whom she can’t help but be drawn to. Their search takes them from Chennai’s newsrooms and universities to the abandoned sepulchral shrine of a Chola queen in the heartland of Tamil Nadu. And here there is a twist in the tale.

Divya Kumar is a journalist, writer and blogger, currently based in Dubai. She spent her early 20s studying and working in the US, dabbling in web-design and media studies, before settling down to a career in journalism. After returning to India, she joined The Hindu newspaper in Chennai, writing for The Hindu Metroplus, covering mainly the book and art beat.

“I started writing this book when I took a break for the birth of my first child. Naturally, it took me three years to complete the book. Fortunately, I didn’t have to run after dozens of publishers. The only difficulty I faced was to convince famous literary agent Kanishka Gupta to have a look at my work. Once he agreed to, it was quite smooth as the editor, Himanjali Sankar, also had confidence in my work,” she added. Encouraged by the tremendous response, she has already started working on its sequel.

Currently available at Jashanmal Books stand at the SIBF, the title will shortly be available at leading bookstores in the UAE.

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Also featured in the SIBF 2018 newsletter! 🙂

 

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Filed under Fiction, Media coverage, The Shrine of Death, Uncategorized