The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books

Date of publication: January 3rd, 2023

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Cultural, India, Adult, Contemporary, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Adult Fiction, Literary Fiction, Literature, Asian Fiction, Novels

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

Geeta’s no-good husband disappeared five years ago. She didn’t kill him, but everyone thinks she did–no matter how much she protests.
But she soon discovers that being known as a “self-made” widow has some surprising perks. No one messes with her, no one threatens her, and no one tries to control (ahem, marry) her. It’s even been good for her business; no one wants to risk getting on her bad side by not buying her jewelry.

Freedom must look good on Geeta, because other women in the village have started asking for her help to get rid of their own no-good husbands…but not all of them are asking nicely.

Now that Geeta’s fearsome reputation has become a double-edged sword, she must decide how far to go to protect it, along with the life she’s built. Because even the best-laid plans of would-be widows tend to go awry.


First Line:

The women were arguing. The loan officer was due to arrive in a few hours, and they were still missing two hundred rupees.

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff

I was intrigued when I read the blurb for the Bandit Queens. I liked seeing a strong woman as the main character in the book. Plus, I was a little curious about how the author would portray Indian life. I wasn’t disappointed; I was shocked at how women in modern-day India are treated. It was eye-opening.

The Bandit Queen is a fast-paced book that takes place mainly in an unnamed village in India. Geeta’s husband, an abusive drunk, had disappeared five years previously. The suddenness of his disappearance caused a whirlwind of rumors to swirl around her. The prominent rumor was that Geeta killed her husband and got away with it. Geeta embraces that rumor and her newfound freedom. She becomes a “self-made” woman and is doing pretty well for herself. That is until the night one of the members of her loan group asks for help killing her husband. That night sets into motion a series of events Geeta cannot stop. But when Geeta needs help, will the women she helped come to her aid?

There are trigger warnings in The Bandit Queen. The author often talks about the sexual assault of girls and women. There are scenes of the aftermath of domestic abuse. There is one memorable scene of attempted rape. There are graphic descriptions of murder. There is animal abuse. The caste system is also investigated in the book. I am sure there is more, but my notes got erased (thanks to my kids). If any of these trigger you, I recommend not reading this book.

The primary and secondary characters of The Bandit Queens are wonderfully written. They were rich and added an extra depth to the storyline, while not needed, that expanded on what was given. They were well-fleshed out, and I connected with several of them. These were characters that I could picture walking down the street or shopping in the supermarket. I am going only to highlight Geeta and Solani. To me, these two were the superstars of the book.

  • Geeta—-I loved her. I wasn’t expecting to at first. She came across, in the beginning, as very standoffish and cold. But as the book went on and I got a good look into her life, I understood why she was that way. I also understood why she embraced what the rumors painted her to be. It gave her a certain amount of freedom that she wouldn’t have been able to have if she didn’t. I was horrified and then amused when Farrah roped her into helping her kill her husband. And when word got out, the fireworks began, and I was giggling the whole time. Geeta wanted no part in killing anyone, yet there she was, helping the twins with the nuisances (aka husbands). I also liked that Geeta, during this time, could look at her past life and reflect on it too. I believe that is why she and Solani reconciled (I am glad they did).
  • Solani—I can’t even begin to describe how much I loved this woman. She was a force to be reckoned with throughout the entire book. I am glad that she saw past Geeta’s husband’s facade and to the real person underneath. She tried to warn Geeta, but that didn’t go over well. Even when they weren’t talking, Solani attempted to be an excellent friend to Geeta. Some things came out towards the end of the book that proves that. I can’t say what because of the spoilers. Also, I loved how Solani embraced herself. She knew she was overweight (having kids will do that to you), and she didn’t care. There was one scene where it was called out, and she was like, “And?

The Bandit Queens have quite a few genres it could fit into. But the top three that fit perfectly into are the Fiction, Mystery, and Adult categories.

The main storyline with Geeta, Solani, the other women, and the killings were wonderfully written. I could see Geeta coming to life as the story went on. She was dragged, kicking and screaming, back into a friendship with Solani and into helping the other women kill their husbands. The humor was very dark in this storyline.

The end of The Bandit Queens was organized chaos, and I loved it. I’m not going to get too much into detail, but I did fear for Geeta. Several things happened that could have harmed her or her friends, and I was anxious reading that part of the book. But the author did a great job of relieving that anxiety. There is an author’s note after the story is over that I appreciated reading.

I would recommend The Bandit Queens to anyone over 21. There is violence, mild language, and very mild sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warning section.


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