Author: Preetham Grandhi
Publisher: Sweetwater Books
ISBN: 978-1-59955-235-4

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In ‘A Circle of Souls’, a small town in Connecticut becomes the scene of the horrific murder of a young girl. Meanwhile, in the same town, psychiatrist Peter Gram begins treating a seven year old Indian girl , Naya Hastings, with a history of vivid dreams.  The child begins drawing images from her dreams, which gradually connect to the murder, an event she could not possibly have had prior knowledge of.  As he interacts with Naya, Gram begins to unearth  evidence that forces him to look beyond scientific rationale, and in turn leads him to assist FBI agent Leia Bines in her hunt for  the killer. As they hurtle towards a chilling climax, Gram finds he must come to terms with  his role in a greater chain of events begun even before his birth. 

Debut author Preetham Grandhi, himself a psychiatrist working with children and adolescents,  uses  his insider’s knowledge of the profession well, to give the reader a peek into the world of pediatric psychiatry.  This is most apparent in the scenes based inside the children’s psychiatric ward of the hospital Gram works in.  Grandhi  weaves  some interesting sub plots into the narrative as well  - events in their pasts that continue to haunt Bines and Gram, for instance, or Naya’s interactions with Sasha, a troubled inmate at the hospital.  Given the resemblance between the names of author and protagonist I wonder how much of himself Grandhi has invested in Gram.  

‘A Circle..’  is a well structured, edge of the seat thriller  that neatly marries psychiatry with the paranormal.  While it does follow a rather textbook trajectory  as a thriller , from  ritualistic slaying to violent climax, it is nevertheless a one that is both smooth and swift. The one part of the book  I was disappointed with was the section where Naya’s uncle reveals the prophecies of the Seekers and Seeked Ones  (‘Sought Ones’, surely?)  to Gram. While it is based on the ancient and revered art of ‘naadi’ astrology still practiced in South India, it still feels like a contrived and hurried explanation for the turns the plot subsequently takes.  And while it offers an intriguing insight into an alternative system of belief , I had to  wonder  if the plot might in fact have benefited by avoiding such an explanation altogether, and leaving  readers  to draw their own conclusions . 

For the reader willing to suspend belief in the rational, this is an engrossing tale of rebirth, preordained fate  and retribution . 

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