Written by Zarine Hossain
Growing up in Pune, Manjiri Prabhu loved the works of Victoria Holt and Daphne Du Maurier and wanted to become a mystery fiction author. “When I published my first novel in 1994, the publishing scene for mainstream writing was pretty bleak. In fact, no Indian publisher was ready to publish The Cosmic Clues and The Astral Alibi. Since then to now, the publishing scene has really changed,” she says.
Her eleventh novel, Voice of the Runes, which hits the shelves this December, unfolds in Sweden and is the second book in the series of psychological destination thrillers after The Trial of Four. A first-person narrative, Voice of the Runes untangles a haunting love story in a span of 36 hours as protagonist Re Parkar uses Nordic signs and symbols to solve a puzzle. When asked about her reasons for using Nordic Mythology, Prabhu says, “The runes, with their multiple uses and fascinating forms of representations, are a heady combination of eerie mysticism, history and culture that attracted and challenged me to weave a credible story around it.”
“I mostly see my protagonists and main characters in my dreams — perhaps my subconscious may have recorded them from reality or bits of people from reality but I have never deliberately set out to carve a character out of a real person. My characters are more aspirational and a combination of what I hope to see in real people,” she says.
Re Parker, an investigative journalist by profession, is inquisitive and this lands him in awe-inspiring situations. Though the situations and characters in her novel are very much fictional, one cannot rule the possibility of its inspiration from the real world.
Exploration of foreign countries and its people, veiled in the concept of mystery and thriller, lies at the heart of this novel. “My goal is to best deceive the reader in such a way that, in the end, he is or she is happy with the deception. The characters display moods, cunning emotions and chilling layers, all soaked in romantic misty rains with a dash of lightening,” says Prabhu. Rain and mist have always mesmerised her and have extended roles in her writing, and so we see how even a bright sunny day suddenly turns dark and stormy. This omnipresence of Gothic elements in her novels is possibly linked to her graduation in French.
After her graduation in French, Prabhu went on to study Communication Science and later worked as a TV producer and directed several shows for children. One of her mystery thrillers was converted into a feature film, Kuchh Dil Ne Kaha. When asked about other plans for films, she candidly says, “If I had my way, I would convert all my books into films”.