There are books we eagerly anticipate, and then there are books we stumble across with zero expectations but end up being in complete awe of. Devashish Sardana’s “The Girl in the Glass Case: Keep Your Girls Safe. Boys Safer” is an example of the latter. “The Girl in the Glass Case: Keep Your Girls Safe. Boys Safer”, a national bestseller, was published in January 2022. Sardana’s latest novel fits perfectly in the “psychological thriller” genre. It includes psychopathic killers, a series of murders, no-nonsense police officers, and an unnerving mind game. However, what makes it stand out from the existing plethora of works in the same genre is Sardana’s treatment of gender, feminism, trauma, and mental disorders.
‘The Girl In The Glass Case’ Plot Summary: What Is The Book About?
Set against the backdrop of Bhopal in the month of December, the narrative spans over five days and surrounds three police inspectors and their desperate attempt at catching two serial murderers on the loose. Simone Singh is an assistant superintendent of police who is back from her suspension, which was a result of the abuse of power and dirty workplace politics. Zoya Bharucha is the deputy superintendent of police. She is popular and well- respected. Zoya also has a degree as a psychologist. Finally, the superintendent of police, Irshad M. Hussain, a workaholic whose failure to catch the serial killer “Clipper” for the past nine years has made him turn to alcohol. The plot begins with an uncanny discovery by a police officer near the Bhopal Gas Memorial site: a three-foot glass case with a Barbie doll inside it. However, on closer inspection, it turns out to be the dead body of a boy dressed as a girl, with the eyes glued open. This is the first of the five dead children that would be discovered by the police in the next five days, and what follows is a cat-and-mouse chase between the officers and the killer(s), a few hits, some misses, and a grand game of illusions. The story is filled with layered meanings, almost provoking the readers to second guess their every instinct, and by the time the readers reach the end, they are left with one question- does solving the crime necessarily mean solving the mystery?
Sardana manages to address the position of women through his nuanced representation of the two women: Simone owns her bald head, her absent social skills, as well as her unapologetic behavior towards any injustice. Hard evidence is what she believes in, and she is not very keen on the idea of studying the psyche of the criminal. Unlike Simone, Zoya is admired and respected by her subordinates and seniors, and she prefers to understand the mind of the killer. So when inspector Irshad appoints the case of the “Doll Maker” to these two women, a clash is expected. However, amidst blaming and questioning each other, we also witness the growth of a friendship filled with empathy and understanding between two ambitious women. Much against the norm, Sardana presents a female camaraderie that goes beyond catfights and jealousy.
The serial killer is not kept hidden from the readers. From the very beginning, the author provides a detailed account of the functioning of the murderer; she is introduced as Nalini, a woman in her late twenties. Suffering from a traumatic childhood, Nalini had an abusive father who accidentally killed her mother in a fit of rage. She had carried this wound throughout her life, and it finally resulted in her “SEVEN-DAY REDEMPTION” plan. Nalini was to kill seven children in seven days. But for what crime was Nalini seeking her redemption? It was for butchering her father. Her twisted psychopathic brain reasoned that killing seven children and reuniting them with their dead mothers was the ‘good deed’ she had to commit in order to redeem herself. And it was only after the completion of this redemptive process that Nalini could finally reunite with her own dead mother.
Just when the readers think they have a grasp of the MO of Nalini, the ‘Doll Maker’, enters a second serial killer- the ‘Clipper,’ Ranveer. Active for the past nine years, the Clipper owes his nomenclature to his style of killing—he cuts the ‘balls’ of his victims. In his case, the victims are mostly transgender people whom he meets through an app on the dark web. Soon the plot develops into a contest between the enraged Clipper, trying to regain his limelight, and the famous Doll Maker, who has become the talk of the town. While on the surface, “The Girl in the Glass Case” might appear to be another psychopathic killer story out of an episode of “Criminal Minds,” the backstory of Ranveer and Nalini provides the readers an insight into the minds of the inhuman killers. It subtly ponders on the issues of sexuality, manliness, and the personality disorders resulting from childhood trauma.
‘The Girl In The Glass Case’ Ending Explained – How Are The ‘Clipper’ And The ‘Doll Maker’ Connected?
With numerous thriller books and on-screen productions in today’s time, it is hardly possible to come across plots that remain unpredictable till the end; yet Sardana, in his latest book, manages this feat. The best twist is kept for last, as the real identity of the killer(s) gets revealed. The Clipper and the Doll Maker are the same; Ranveer is Nalini, and Nalini is Ranveer.
Ranveer, who was born as a male, always had a effeminate side to himself, a side that was visible and acceptable to his mother but abhorred and despised by his father. His mother would often dress him up as a girl, hiding it from his father’s knowledge. However, one fateful evening, when his father discovers the duo’s secret dress-up sessions, he ends up killing Ranveer’s mother in a fit of rage. He grabs Ranveer’s balls, and as he screams in pain, his father warns him never to forget his masculine identity. It is as a result of this repressed self and identity that Ranveer unconsciously creates his alter ego, Nalini. Ranveer suffers from a case of multiple personality disorder, and Nalini turns out to be an outlet for his repressed self. The twist doesn’t end here. The readers are in for an additional surprise when Karan Kapoor, the flashy and popular journalist, and Simone’s potential “date” also end up being another manifestation of the “Clipper’s” personality. The climax of the plot, where Ranveer is in his hall of mirrors and finally faces all of his personalities and, in turn, his repressed identities and trauma, is indeed praiseworthy.
It is inspector Simone Singh who finally discerns the identity of “The Doll Maker” to be her longtime acquaintance and friend Karan Kapoor. However, the identity of the Clipper still remains unknown to the police, and as the plot ends, the readers cannot help but ponder on the irony of the situation: the murderer, although caught, remains uncaught for Inspector Irshad. As the Superintendent of Police tries to understand how the “Clipper” escaped, we wonder: would he finally give up his nine-year search, or was this only the beginning of his extended misery?
The narration is undoubtedly fast-paced and keeps the readers on edge. What might comes across as lacking is the purpose of introducing transgender people as victims of the “clipper”, however it can be speculated that the ‘Clipper’s negation of his own sexuality is what drives his MO. The handling of gender too comes across as stereotypical in some cases. Nonetheless, ‘The Girl in the Glass Case: Keep Your Girls Safe. Boys Safer,” with its easy narration, fast pace, and shocking twists, promises to be one of the thrillers you won’t be able to put down before the ending.