Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Dharma: A Rekha Rao Mystery Book Spotlight

Today, I have a mystery novel in our book spotlight!  Check out Dharma:  A Rekha Rao Mystery, learn about the author & enter for a chance to win a prize in the book tour giveaway at the end of this post.

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About the Book

Rekha Rao, a thirty-something Indian American professor of art history, is disillusioned by academia and haunted by the murder of her father. She believes police convicted the wrong person, and moves away from her match-making family.

She’s focused on managing her PTSD and healing her heart, broken by an abusive boyfriend. She gets entangled in a second murder, that of her mentor and father figure. The murder weapon, an idol of the Hindu goddess Durga, is left behind on the body. Detective Al Newton asks her to look into the relationship, if any, between the meaning of the statue and the motive for the murder.

 

Rekha is attracted to Al but steers clear of him because of her distaste for cops and fear of a new relationship. The two constantly clash, starting a love-hate relationship. Meanwhile, her family sets her up to meet a suitor, an Indian attorney. When police arrest one of her students and accuse her mentor of idol theft, Rekha is left with no other choice but to look for the killer on her own.

 Despite admonitions from Al and bodily harm caused by an intruder, Rekha finds the killer, and in the process, emerges from the cocoon of a protected upbringing to taste the prospect of romance and discover her true identity.

 Praise:

 “A polished, confident whodunit brimming with personality and the right amount of intrigue and mayhem.” – Kirkus Reviews

 2019 Chanticleer International Book Awards M&M Mystery & Mayhem Award Semi-Finalist

 "A murder mystery set against an intriguing backdrop of Indian mysticism and archaeology makes this a very good pick. Dharma, A Rekha Rao Mystery may also provide some readers with a glimpse into the rich religious history of India's gods, rich mythology at least as rich to American readers as the more familiar Greco-Roman gods and goddesses. It's one of the hidden treats that makes this novel an enjoyable read for mystery lovers everywhere." - Chanticleer Reviews Rating: 5/5 star

 “Dharma is a lively story about duty, discovery, and growth as much as it is a murder mystery steeped in Indian tradition, yet set in Los Angeles. It will please those seeking strong characterization that drives an underlying story of intrigue and revelation.” - Midwest Book Review


Buy the Book

Amazon


Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 9

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Eagle Rock, Los Angeles, CA.

 “Neil Anderson?” Patricia looked at her computer and said, “Oh, yeah, Davidson was his advisor. But three weeks ago, Davidson decided for sure he wanted to retire, one hundred percent as he put it, gave up his office and student counseling. So, yes, Anderson was adrift, but I believe Striker talked to your Chair before he assigned him to you.”

“It seemed so, but I wanted to check. Have you got a few minutes?”

“Sure, what’s bugging you?”

Today, Patricia was cheerful. Knowing her only for a short time, I wondered if she’d divulge any departmental secrets.

I asked, “You must miss Faust. How long had you worked for him?”

Her eyes lit up. “Since he moved to the Institute. He was such a great person, Rekha. Very patient with me as I developed the vocabulary for his manuscripts and memos. I’d have died for him. Don’t get me wrong. There was nothing inappropriate. I know where the line is.” I smiled, thinking of Ginny’s worry over Faust’s assistant.

I was making some headway with Patricia. “I heard there was some friction between Faust and Davidson. Was that true?”

“Oh yeah, they both went to Harvard. Fellow grad students. Then, Davidson went to teach somewhere in the Midwest, and Professor F went to UCI. When the institute got started, it was Striker who recruited him to join him here. But when the committee selected Professor F for the other co-directorship, Davidson went berserk.”

I noted that Patricia seemed to revere Faust in a way she didn’t accord the others. “What do you mean?”

“I overheard him yelling at the professor the day the committee announced the decision.”

“Davidson told me he patched it up with Faust.”

“Yes, they were back to being buddies. Men, they don’t hold grudges as we do.” Patricia laughed.

“Tell me about Striker. I just learned that he was unhappy he didn’t get the solo directorship. How did he treat Faust?” I sipped my coffee.

“I can’t tell you of a single person who held a grudge against Professor F. Poor man, he was too nice.” She cleared her throat. “Yeah, Striker was pissed when the Board suggested co-directors. He’d worked to get JPM built and wanted to be its sole owner, in a way. I sometimes laugh at what people value in their lives. Thank God, I’m not like that.”

“Do you think Striker would have arranged to get the Durga? Is he a collector of any sort?”

Patricia laughed. “He, a collector?  His wife died a few years ago, and he’s now married to JPM. Some of us were invited to his house after the Institute opened. I can tell you there was no collection of anything there. Except for dust.”

I couldn’t help smiling. “Tell me about Neil Anderson.” I peeked at my phone to check the time.

“Well, he’s a bit strange.”

I leaned forward to ask, “What do you mean? He’s brilliant, that much I can say. Very quiet in class but brilliant in his analysis and interpretation of data .”

Patricia smiled. “I guess his behavior goes along with his braininess. He wanted Professor F to read his proposal for the junior thesis. And he’s just finishing his sophomore year. The professor gave him a couple of meetings and suggested he talk to his advisor, Davidson.”

“Well, I think Neil was dead serious about getting into Faust’s next excavation. That must have been why he was so persistent.”

“Maybe, but he pestered the man with emails, sent his proposal to his home address, annoyed the heck out of him. Professor F told me to block his emails and tell him to work with Davidson or Striker. If it were up to me, I’d have reported him to the Dean for harassment.” 

Other than my Chair, Patricia was the only female at Oxy who paid me any attention. I could use a little solidarity. On an impulse, I hugged her and said, “Let’s do lunch some time.” She smiled and nodded. Before leaving, I asked for Davidson’s phone number and address. I wanted to talk to him about Neil and other things. “Patricia, I stopped by and saw Ginny, but wondered if Faust had more kith and kin in this area. Are his parents alive?

“No. Striker reached out to every relative we could locate. There’s a niece who lives in Pasadena. Want to go see her?” She handed me a hastily scribbled address on a post-it note.

It was clear to me now that Davidson had always been in Faust’s shadow. Faust got the accolades and the co-directorship. What was the tipping point that led Davidson to murder? Did Faust take Ginny away from him too?


About the Author

Vee Kumari grew up in India. She loved to read, and often used it to avoid her mother, who might want her to do a chore or two. It was her mother who directed her to use the dictionary to learn the meanings of new words and construct sentences with them. Vee wanted to become an English professor but went to medical school instead.

Upon coming to the US, Vee obtained a doctorate in anatomy. She became a faculty member at the UC Davis Medical Center, where she worked for over 35 years, and later worked for the Keck School of Medicine for five years. Teaching neuroanatomy to medical students became her passion. She published many scientific papers and won several teaching awards.

When she retired in 2012, she took classes from The Gotham Writers' Workshop and UCLA Writers Program. Dharma, A Rekha Rao Mystery is her debut fiction that incorporates her observations on the lives of Indian immigrants and Indian Americans in the US.

Vee lives in Burbank and is also an actor who has appeared in TV shows, including Criminal Minds and Glow, and produced and was the lead in a short film, Halwa, which garnered the first prize in HBO's 2019 Asian Pacific American Visionaries (APAV) contest.

She is at work on her next novel about an Indian immigrant family whose American dream shatters when one of their twin daughters goes missing.

Connect with the Author

Facebook: @veekumari

Instagram:  @vee6873hollywood

Twitter: @veekumari1



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