Disclaimer – This bibliophile blogger is also an author and I made my debut with the Detective thriller ‘Deal of Death’ last year. While writing the favorite Indian Detective series, it was quite difficult to choose seven Detectives amidst many that I had read. But the intention was to keep it personal and so I blogged about only those who I had grown to love. This series saw some great responses from authors like Manreet Sodhi Someshwar, Bhaskar Chattopadhyay, and Swati Kaushal. Not to forget, even Anita Nair had liked my tweet about her Detective. But the 8th Detective is a character created from my brain and heart. So how could I not let it be a part of my favorites list! Despite the risk of making this post sound like a bit of self-promotion, I felt that there couldn’t be a better way to make some announcements with respect to the lady sleuth who created quite a furor with her entry.
Novels in the series –
Deal of Death
About the Detective –
Raya Ray, an ex-marketing honcho had been dealing with loss when a chance to help her Banker husband, Krishanu Banerjee, marked her debut as a Private Investigator in Kolkata. Raya had been handling mundane cases until she lands in Munshiganj in response to a call for assistance from the sister of her house-help.
Raya, who is well-aware of her need to get fit to keep up to her professional needs rarely has any second thoughts while ordering pastries and sweets. She is sharp and analytical while cracking mysteries. During the course of the case, she is often found to seek closure of her wounds through the happenings in her clients’ life. In the world of investigation dominated by men around her, Raya is here to smash gender stereotypes chasing chases criminals and solving cases.
Raya’s journey –
I wrote ‘Deal of Death’ as part of the Blogchatter E-book carnival in 2018. It was one of the first books to reach the download limit of 600 on the Blogchatter platform and it continued being in the ‘out of stock’ status until recently. The book opened to rave reviews and the recent review on the blog Vartika’s diary goes to prove how much this novella is popular even today. The Goodreads rating of the book has been at a consistent 4.59 for more than a year now.
Niki Marwah, as the Superintendent of Police is in charge of maintaining the law and order of Shimla. At 5ft 6inches, this razor-sharp minded investigator loves her stilettos as much as she enjoys chasing down criminals. When she is not dodging marriage proposals from her mother , she finds herself meeting men set up by her best friend Kamini aka Kam who understands how intimidating a woman in uniform can turn out to be for future prospects. When a body is discovered at the Sonargram cable car base, SP Marwah along with her team consisting of Inspector Gupta from the crime branch, the veteran Inspector Pande and the new recruit ASP Shankar Sahay start investigating the death of the 37-year-old Rakesh Mehta aka Rak – President, and CEO of a publishing firm. As the highly competent cop and her team start delving into the details of the death, involved parties start getting exposed and the truth of the events turn out to be different from they are presumed to be. During the course of the investigation, she also runs into Captain Ram Mathur, a close friend of the murdered CEO and despite the development of a budding romance, a sudden discovery of past relationships lands him in the list of suspects. This action-packed thriller takes a reader through multiple twists and turns before revealing the identity of the killer.
Janardan Maity, like Byomkesh Bakshi(by Saradindu Bandopadhyay) is not quite fond of the word detective attached to his name. Prakash Ray, an out-of-luck journalist, who is also the narrator of Maity’s adventures, has a chance encounter with this unusually intelligent and observant man at the birthday party of Ray’s uncle, Rajendra Mukherjee. Mukherjee introduces Maity as one of his closest friends who has never lost a game of chess. After the host and his second wife get murdered, all the guests gathered for the birthday party of the host turn out to be suspects in the eyes of the police. It is Maity and his logical reasoning that helps solve this mystery putting the murderer behind the bars. The climax of the novel brings back memories of Satyajit Ray’s Feluda who was also in the habit of assimilating all the parties involved in a case before revealing the truth and the identity of the killer.
Inspector Borei Gowda, more popularly known as Inspector Gowda (also referred to as B report Gowda by some peers and subordinates) is a resident of Greenview Residency, Bangalore. Presently posted at Bowring Hospital Station, his record of numerous transfers and delayed promotions is the result of having irked quite a few men in power. His medico wife Mamtha has taken a transfer to Hasan after their son Roshan has his MBBS course there. Riding a Royal Enfield bullet, Gowda leads a group of policemen named PC Byrappa, Gajendra and the new SI Santosh Gowda in the first novel ‘Cut like Wound.’ As the story unfolds, we are drawn into a world of crime, transgenders, sexual abuse while Gowda and his men try to unravel the layers of lies that can lead to the truth beneath. During this troublesome period where Gowda finds himself alienated from his wife and son, he reunites with his ex-flame from college, a child rights activist by profession, Urmila.
Originally written in Bengali, the stories/novels of Byomkesh were published in the form of a collection titled ‘Byomkesh Samagra’ in 1995. Most of these stories have been translated into English recently. The author’s sudden demise left the last story ‘Bishupal Badh’ in the Byomkesh series incomplete.
About the detective –
Byomkesh was introduced to the literary world as a private investigator on a mission to bust a drug racquet in colonial India. He appeared in disguise under the pseudo-name of Atul Chandra Sen in the novel ‘Satyaneshwi’. The plot was set in 1924-25. This is where he is shown to meet his future housemate, friend, and novelist, Ajit who eventually decides to pen down Byomkesh’s cases in the form of stories. This dhoti-kurta clad resident of Harrison road in Kolkata has his man Friday named Putiram and abhors the term private investigator or detective. Instead, he prefers to call himself as Satyanweshi (the one in search of the truth). Byomkesh belongs to that rare breed of detectives in literature who gets married and starts a family. He meets his future wife Satyaboti during one of the investigations where her brother is considered a suspect. Eventually, they get married and have a kid who’s known to the world as Khokha.
The case of the Man Who Died Laughing (Vish Puri 2)
The case of the Deadly Butter Chicken (Vish Puri 3)
The case of the Love Commandoes (Vish Puri 4)
About the detective –
Vishwas Puri, more popular as the 51-year-old Vish Puri is the founder and managing director of Most Private Investigators Ltd. (that goes by the catchline ‘Confidentiality is my Watchword’). A detective based out of Defence colony, Delhi, this Punjabi loves food as much his curious cases. He is often found to devise ways to defy the family physician Dr. Mohan’s cautionary advice related to his high blood pressure and diabetes. His investigation methodology follows the age-old practices of observation and detection using disguise and undercover aliases. He has a unique and funny way of addressing his employees, relatives and close friends. He has a nickname for all like for instance his wife is called Rumpi, his driver, Handbrake; the lazy office-boy, Door Stop; his assistant – the one who takes time to flicker to life, Tubelight; the guy who was the first one to have a flush toilet at his home in his village, Flush and the Nepali woman employee, Facecream. The detective is also referred to as Chubby by his near ones though, for his employees, he prefers to be known as Boss only. A few more interesting characters in Hall’s books are the matriarch in Puri’s family, his mighty Mummyji; his secretary, Elizabeth Rani, and his archrival Hari Kumar.
Mehrunisa, created from the author’s research on the Mughal history and renaissance art is a Mughal scholar researching Indo-Persian linkages. Born to a Punjabi father (Harinder Singh Khosa -an undercover spy) and a Persian mother, her half Sikh-half muslim NRI status often evokes great curiosity among her countrymen. She often spends her time at the house of her Godfather, a highly reputed historian, the 70-year-old Professor Kaul in Delhi. It was while assisting Prof. Kaul for a project on the heritage monument Taj Mahal that Mehrunissa eventually discovers what the Taj Mahal is meant to depict. In the second book, The Hunt for Kohinoor, her journey becomes more personal as she chases a deadline of 96 hours while also encountering some startling discoveries from her past.
Mehrusina has become a much more relevant character in today’s world where communal agendas seem to erode humanity every single day. Quoting the author from one of her interviews, “I wrote The Taj Conspiracy, Book 1 of the Mehrunisa trilogy, to rescue Taj Mahal from ignorant guides and benighted rumors and show it for what it really is — as the color white contains all colors within it, this monument of white comprises multiple, diverse threads of a pluralistic India. I created Mehrunisa as a human metaphor for the Taj — strong yet vulnerable and of mixed heritage.” The plot of the novels has a mix of history and politics set against the backdrop of India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
Originally written in Bengali, a large number of Ray’s detective books have been translated to English and are available for purchase on various e-commerce platforms.
About the detective –
Prodosh Chandra Mitra or Prodosh C Mitter is a private investigator based out of 21, Rajani Sen Road, Kolkata. He is assisted by his cousin Tapesh Ranjan Mitra aka Topshe in all the cases. They befriend a writer Lalmohan Ganguly aka Jatayu during their adventure in Jaipur (in the book Sonar Kella) and the trio remains inseparable until the last book.
It is believed that Ray was highly influenced by the writing style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his famous detective character Sherlock Holmes. In multiple instances, Feluda is heard calling Sherlock his ‘guru’. Topshe is similar to the character of Dr. Watson. Even the character of Sidhu Jetha is said to be inspired by Sherlock’s elder brother Mycroft Holmes. Feluda is 6ft 2inches, fond of exercise and is often choosy about the cases he accepts. He loves his pack of Charminar cigarettes, prefers to have his evening tea with a snack made from Bengal gram called dalmut and keeps a 0.32 colt revolver for security. Feluda manages to solve most of his cases through his analytical abilities using his brains that he refers to as magajashtra and thus the books rarely have unnecessary action-packed sequences. While most of his initial cases are set in Kolkata and other parts of Bengal, we see him move to Bombay in Bombaiyyer Bombete, Kashmir in Bhuswarga Bhayankar, Hong Kong in Tintorettor Jishu and London in Golapi Mukto rahasya. The climax in this series usually involved a scene where Feluda gathered all the characters and revealed the modus operandi and thoughts of the killer before revealing the identity of the antagonist.
From books to screens –
Two of the books had been adapted to Bengali movies by Ray himself. Sonar Kellaand Joy Baba Felunathstarring the Bengali veteran actor Soumitro Chatterjee. His son, the renowned filmmaker, Sandip Ray directed a few more of his stories like Royal Bengal rahasya, Bombaiyyer Bombette starring Sabyasachi Chakroborty in the lead role. Recently, he adapted one of the earlier works of Ray titled Hirer angticasting actor Abir Chatterjee (who rose to fame portraying the character Byomkesh Bakshy in movies). Very recently a web series has also made. This goes to prove that the appeal of this sharp-minded detective is evergreen.