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The Third Squad


A dark, complex morality tale exploring the limits of justice in contemporary Mumbai.

$15.95 $11.96

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What people are saying…

“A melancholy cop’s obsessions are just the tip of the iceberg as he leads a two-fisted team determined to clean up Mumbai’s mean streets . . . Kumar’s style, blunt but often by turns poetic and droll, is arresting . . . As unusual as it is compelling, this entry lays the groundwork for an entertaining series.”
Kirkus Reviews

V. Sanjay Kumar has been named the winner of the 2018 Bridport Prize for Short Story!

“Kumar evokes [Mumbai] with lyrical prose.”
Publishers Weekly

Included in a Publishers Weekly feature on Crime Fiction focused on police corruption and brutality

“[A] gripping thriller . . . Kumar has created some thoroughly intriguing characters . . . but the most fascinating of Kumar’s characters is Mumbai itself—enormous, crowded, hyperactive, roiling, stunningly rich and grindingly poor, and teeming with almost unfathomable energy. International-crime fans should flock to this one.”

The Third Squad ends with an emotional wallop, making it stand out among crime novels. It has the chiaroscuro effects of classic noir, but also the philosophical depth of highbrow literary fiction . . . Mumbai teems with lurid intrigue in this smart and affecting work of postmodern noir.”
Shelf Awareness, starred review

“Kumar does a masterful job building the story’s tension level as Karan draws closer and closer to his final confrontation with his superiors in the Indian Police Service.”
Book Chase

The Third Squad enveloped me in Mumbai, in its strangeness even to people who call it home. Each of the many odd but totally real characters who populate this book shines a light on the city and on one another. It’s a page-turner, but as I got closer to the end I slowed down because I didn’t want to have to leave this world.”
S.J. Rozan, author (as Sam Cabot) of Skin of the Wolf

“Against a backdrop of debilitating poverty, ancient religion, staggering wealth, and corruption, Mumbai comes alive in The Third Squad as the perfect storm for twenty-first-century noir. Driving this absolutely compelling tale is Karan, a police sharpshooter who is essentially a trained assassin. Initially distanced from his own actions by both Asperger’s syndrome and Old World devotion to authority, he’s ultimately forced to reconcile personal morality with obedience in a grim new age of blind opportunism.”
—Tim McLoughlin, author of Heart of the Old Country


The Third Squad is an arresting, ripped-from-the-headlines noir novel that deftly explores how in recent decades, to ostensibly combat the rising tide of criminality in Mumbai’s underworld, the Indian Police Service has carried out many hundreds of extrajudicial assassinations of suspected criminals. Karan, an expert sharpshooter in an elite branch of the Indian police dispensed with dishing out this peculiar blend of vigilante justice, has a difficult choice to make: should he continue to blindly follow orders from his superiors, regardless of their moral standing, or should he take matters into his own hands and do what he believes to be right?

Belonging to a hit squad whose members all fall somewhere along the autism spectrum, Karan, who has been diagnosed with mild Asperger’s syndrome, is notorious for his ruthless precision and efficiency in carrying out these assassinations, yet he remains aloof and distant. Gradually, his impenetrable façade begins to crack, and Karan’s emotional and psychological depth reveals itself as he is forced to make decisions where the stakes are literally life-and-death. Also at play is the looming specter of the city of Mumbai itself, seemingly at the cusp of a neoliberal era of enlightenment and progress, yet still trapped under the ineluctable burden of old Bombay history, which can never quite be forgotten or suppressed.

Dark and gritty, raw and fast-paced, and never sentimental, The Third Squad distills the best aspects of classic American noir writing into a uniquely Indian context, revealing V. Sanjay Kumar as a singular talent on the crime fiction circuit.

Read a guest post by V. Sanjay Kumar on Prose ‘n’ Cons.

Read an interview with V. Sanjay Kumar on PaulSemel.com

Included in Liberty Hardy’s New Books! Roundup for Book Riot

Watch V. Sanjay Kumar, Arjun Gaind and Puja Changoiwala in conversation about crime writing at the 2017 Kala Ghoda Arts Fest:

Book Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Published: 3/7/17
  • IBSN: 9781617754975
  • e-IBSN: 9781617755101


V. SANJAY KUMAR runs an art gallery and writes about art for various magazines. His two previous novels—Artist, Undone and Virgin Gingelly—take place in the bustling cities of Mumbai and Chennai (where Kumar grew up), exploring the fringes of middle-class life there. The Third Squad is his most recent novel.

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