“A Burning,” the debut novel of New York resident Megha Majumdar, is an atmospheric, of-the-moment look at the perils of living as a Muslim in Kolkata’s hellish slums. When young Jivan posts online about a terrorist attack she observed after the event, she finds herself in prison. And the two individuals who can save her, a wannabe acting star and a dissatisfied teach, have their own life trajectories that evolve tragically for Jivan. Majumdar’s created world fizzes with vibrancy and there is much to like about the tale, but for me, A Burning lacked narrative cogency. The plot is utterly without surprise or relief, and the three character voices, each in that present tense form that seems prevalent at the moment, are clumsy and inauthentic. To be blunt, I enjoyed aspects of the read, chiefly the Kolkata ambience, but failed to fall under the book’s spell.