Jeet Thayil’s debut novel Narcopolis is completely enthralled by Mumbai (or rather Bombay, as he would have it), but one of the most refreshing things about the book is how, for the most part, it avoids the standard trappings of contemporary Indian literature. Narcopolis is neither a multigenerational family saga nor a chatty confessional on entrepreneurs and new technology. Instead, Thayil looks back to the 1970s and digs into the grime of Bombay’s opium dens and dangerous neighbourhoods. The cast of dealers, users, eunuchs, and a former Chinese general risks cliché, but Thayil balances any sort of drug-glorification with glimpses into the dark reality of addiction. Though the book jumps between multiple narrators, eunuch addict Dimple becomes the common thread as Thayil traces the Bombay drug market’s progression from opium to heroin and worse. Taking inspiration from Thayil’s own experiences as a former addict, Nacropolis is unhurried and completely engrossing.