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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The Curious Case of the Multiplying Detectives

In 1929 British crime writer Ronald Knox codiefied a set of 10 commandments,a decalogue for all crime writers.

Written by Anushree Majumdar |
March 11, 2010 12:09:13 am

2010 heralds more detective series in Indian commercial fiction

In 1929 British crime writer Ronald Knox codiefied a set of 10 commandments,a decalogue for all crime writers. The rules included that no Chinamen should feature in the plot,only one hidden passage or room was allowed and that the friend of the detective,the Watson,must not hide any thoughts from the reader. Mumbai-based Smita Jain cares nothing for these rules: her detectives are smart,stylish,urban women who will fix their make up while chasing a lead. Her first offering,Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions sold well and Jain decided to pen another titled Piggies on the Railway (Tranquebar-Westland). But with her new private investigator Kasthuri Kumar,Jain is creating a detective series for her readers. “You can call it chicklit-cum-crime. There is a mystery,a ditzy detective more in tune with glamour and celebrity,dishy dudes,bitchy women and smart repartee,” says Jain. She’s hardly the only one considering there’s a detective series’ unfolding in the Mughal Court,in the heartland of Punjab and even Bollywood. 2010 promises to be a very exciting year for detective fiction lovers.

“It is probably a result of the snobbery that seems to have surrounded Indian writing in English for a long time — the notion that if you write in English,you should only be writing literary fiction,” says Madhulika Liddle,author of The Englishman’s Cameo (Hachette India),a crime thriller set in Mughal India. She points out there is a substantial market for crime fiction in India,from Agatha Christie to PD James and Ian Rankin. If good detective fiction is written by Indian authors,they too will find

a market.

Last year British writer Tarquin Hall’s The Case of the Missing Servant (Random House) heralded the appearance of our very own Punjabi Poirot,private investigator Vish Puri. “My main interest was in writing about modern India and I felt a private investigator would make a good protagonist. Many Western readers are familiar with the India of the Raj and Mughal periods,but they don’t really understand the country today,” says Hall,who is now working on the second part of the series,tentatively titled The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing.

Kishwar Desai’s debut work of fiction,Witness the Night (Harper Collins),saw the emergence of detective Simran Singh,a chain-smoking,whisky glugging social worker. While Desai and Jain’s work is set in present day India,Liddle goes back to the Mughal court. “This period,the closing years of Shahjahan’s reign,was a fascinating period: the court at Delhi was one of the wealthiest in the world,and Shahjahanabad was a rich,glittering city,uncannily like the Delhi of today,” says Liddle who has completed a collection of detective stories featuring Muzzafar Jung,her detective from The Englishman’s Cameo. These new detective stories have garnered movie interest as well: while Liddle’s manuscript has been submitted to a few filmmakers,Jain is working on the screenplay for the 70mm version of Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions. The film rights have been bought

by iRock media. Let the mystery begin.

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