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The Body in the Swimming Pool by Shabnam Minwalla 

Detective novels are a no brainer go-to when I want to destress. Nothing like a fast paced story where you’re just waiting to know what will unravel now. The Body in the Swimming Pool by Shabnam Minwalla (Talking Cub) has young sleuths investigating the murder of a harmless kind old lady who fell (was pushed?) from her balcony right into the swimming pool of a gated community. The book is meant for middle graders, and the teen detectives who have formed “The Chicken Pox Club”, (yes, suffering from chicken pox exactly in their summer holidays turned out to be a blessing in disguise), are a lot to reckon with. 

The teen sleuths incidentally take part in a summer workshop on detection and investigations,  and the murder in their apartment complex leaves a mystery to solve right under their noses. The victim, Sandra Saldanha was a poet and English literature professor. As The Chicken Pox Club members dig more, they uncover a cryptic note that leads them to a cemetery, a poem that apparently has clues, stories of two students who went missing years back and a surprising turn of events where danger lurks in every corner, much closer to them than they could have imagined. 

The story unfolds in Mumbai. Minwalla is known to weave humour and magic in her words and this book is no exception.  As a detective novel for teens it really has all the ingredients that go into giving it bestseller status. The characters are captivating. It has twists and turns and half way through the novel the pace fastens and leads on to an intelligent climax. It will juggle your brain as you try and piece together the clues and guess who the murderer is. The setting is real and relatable. And yes, subtle humour pervades the entire book which keeps it light and funny. 

Minwalla also authentically captures the inner lives of the characters – teenagers Paromita Mehta, Nihal Advani, Darius Engineer and Sunidhi Menon. The setting, a township of high rise towers in Parel, Mumbai really strikes a chord and reflects a slice of the maximum city in its latest avatar. 

The book got me nostalgic about my own summer holidays (dating back decades) when I devoured mysteries. I do hope The Chicken Pox Club becomes a series! 

It is not surprising that Minwalla’s books have won many awards. You may want to read reviews of some of her other books here. My favourite as far as her detective fiction goes is What Maya Saw and Saira Zariwala is Afraid. And my all time favourite book by this author is Zen, it’s a book that’s truly different! 

The Body in the Swimming Pool by Shabnam Minwalla  is a book that will resonate with teens, especially those who are already fond of the genre of detective fiction. And those who are not, we’ll try this one and I bet you’ll be hooked… well, booked for life!!!

Dhanishta Shah

Dhanishta is a Counselling Psychologist and a freelance writer. She is the Founder of Bookedforlife.