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Murder she wrote

Dainty little cupcakes sitting pretty on a tiered glass-stand in a corner sent a murmur around Starmark, South City Mall. What were cupcakes doing in a book shop? But the tiny books topping each coconut cupcake from Mrs. Magpie held the clue to the mystery — the creator of Calcutta’s young hot detective Reema Ray was in town.

The icing on the yummy cupcake was a miniature book cover in marzipan!

Madhumita Bhattacharyya’s debut novel The Masala Murder (Pan Macmillan, Rs 250) was launched on Friday by actress Swastika Mukherjee, director Mainak Bhaumik and designer Kallol Datta in the city that the author calls home, though she is currently based in Gurgaon.

“This is where I have spent most of my life. I had initially based the book in Shanghai, a city I loved for its liveliness. But my publisher Saugata Mukherjee said because the book targets the mass market in India, it should be based closer home. And Calcutta was then the obvious choice,” smiled the t2 columnist.

But why cupcakes? Because PI Reema Ray believes, when in doubt, bake. Being a detective is no cakewalk, as Reema soon finds out. So, she’s a food writer for a magazine on the side.

Mainak Bhaumik and Swastika Mukherjee unveil the murder mystery
“I’m dying to read Madhumita’s book and hopefully it can be made into a movie!” said Mainak.
“I’m so honoured to be launching this book. I love reading thrillers and I’m sure this one will be a hit. And well, if Mainak decides to make a film out of this...” smiled Swastika, a Jeffrey Archer fan.

“The first thing I was told about The Masala Murder was that it’s a thriller. And here I am,” smiled Swastika. For Mainak it was a different connection. “Madhumita was my first actress; I did a short film with her when I was in school,” said the maker of the soon-to-release Maach Mishti & More.

But it was the conversation with Kallol that stirred up quite a dishy suspense. If Reema being loosely based on Madhumita herself was the starter, what with their shared love for black and baking, Kallol’s fascination with the character of Shayak Gupta gave enough spice for the main course. “Reema is always in love with inappropriate people. Shayak is one such person... I’m sure most of my girlfriends would not like him,” laughed Madhumita.

Reema’s two worlds — crime and cooking — collide when a gourmet provisions supplier ends up dead under mysterious circumstances and at the same time her ex-boyfriend comes asking for help when he’s accused of kidnapping his own wife.

After a reading session, Madhumita was bombarded with questions from all sides. “If a situation ever arises where Reema has to let go of a murderer, will she do it?” asked Shankha Shuvro Chattopadhyay, 24, a dedicated contributor to the t2 Feedback page. “Reema is loyal to the cause of justice, but this is just the first book,” said the author, leaving the rest to imagination.

Next, Debkumar Mitra, research director at Derek ’Brien & Associates, hurled some puzzles at the audience, offering prizes from Pan Macmillan for correct answers. And guess what? Swastika took home one!