I was excited about Her Nightly Embrace ever since I saw it in the Simon and Schuster Canada blogger email. It’s the first in a new mystery trilogy featuring a protagonist of Indian descent and written by a graphic novelist and screenwriter of Chinese-Thai descent. Even better, it is part of a multimedia approach to storytelling with a TV show and podcast produced by Idris Elba and starring Sendhil Ramamurthy, whom I loved in Heroes. So to be completely honest, I began this book already predisposed to liking it.
And now, having read the book, forget just liking the book. I’m a full-fledged fan girl and am so excited to see how these stories will play out on the screen! Structured to fit the multimedia publication format, Her Nightly Embrace is a collection of four short mysteries, each focusing on a particular case, and all four exploring a larger narrative around protagonist Ravi Chandra Singh’s introduction into life as a private investigator, and in particular a P.I. working at Golden Sentinels, an upmarket London investigations firm staffed by “strays with skills”, “brilliant fuckups with nowhere else to go.”
Indeed, the cast of characters is probably the biggest strength of this series. Ravi is fantastic as the “regular” guy in the group, a failed religious scholar and former high school teacher who sees gods. The very first line of the book reveals his propensity to find gods, usually Hindu, at stressful times, and I love how matter of factly Tantimedh treats this particular skill, simply inserting Kali into a corner tweeting to the other gods about Ravi’s latest exploits. The rest of the staff at Golden Sentinels is even more colourful. My favourite is probably Olivia Wong, a Hong Kong heiress and genius hacker, just because she’s super smart and, yes, an Asian woman, so I’m really excited to see her onscreen. Other memorable characters include: Ken and Clive, a pair of ex-cops who act as the firm’s muscle and who also happen to be a couple; Marcie Holder, an American former publicist; Benjamin Lee, a MacGyver-style techie; Mark Chapman, a stoner; David Okri, a lawyer from a Nigerian immigrant family who often goes with their boss Roger Golden to woo super rich potential clients; and Cheryl Hughes, the office manager and Roger’s right hand woman. With so many characters, it can get a bit difficult to tell them apart in the beginning, but Tantimedh does such a great job in making each of them so vivid that each becomes memorable in their own way.
The cases as well are intriguing. Tantimedh’s writing is funny and fast-paced, and the mysteries suck you in. I particularly love “War of the Sock Puppets,” about a female celebrity who faces online harassment and doxxing for being a feminist, and “The Hideaway Bride,” about a woman from a traditional Pakistani family who goes missing shortly before her arranged marriage. I found both cases particularly relevant, and found myself cheering Ravi and his team on as they investigate. The final case, “The Leaky Banker,” about a banker who fears for her life, had the highest stakes and it was great to see Ravi truly settling into his role and taking charge, but it also had the most traditional feel to it and so didn’t quite stick with me as much.
The titular case “Her Nightly Embrace” had an interesting premise — a politician claims his dead fiancee is haunting him for sex — and I like how the character of the politician evolved over the story, but I admit to being dissatisfied with how something was handled at the end. This is one instance where I thought the episodic format worked against the book, as I felt that in the interest of wrapping things up, the extent of a particular act’s impact in this story wasn’t given due significance for how heinous it really was. That being said, it’s a single glitch in an otherwise enjoyable set of mysteries, and I really like how most of the time, Ravi serves as the voice of conscience to his more experienced colleagues, and in that way probably addresses audience concerns as well.
Overall, Her Nightly Embrace is a fantastic start to this new mystery series. I love Ravi and his co-workers, and I also loved his scenes with his family, which are all hilarious and feel so real. I’m so excited for the next books in the series, and I can’t wait to see how the podcast and TV show turn out! (I have no idea if they’ll be based on the same stories or will have their own, but selfishly, I’m rather hoping for original stories on screen, just so I have more Ravi, P.I. cases to enjoy!)
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.