Good crime novels seamlessly blur the divide between fiction and reality. They extend beyond themselves to give readers a sensory experience and elicit a visceral response. As your favourite detective scurries through grisly scenes and reaches uncomfortably close to truths while something sinister lurks beneath the surface, all you can do is hold on to the edge of your seat and ask for more.
This genre can consume, electrify and thrill. Some might agree that crime novels are best savoured when they come out in series. Here’s a list of recently-published crime series in India that introduce you to new and quirky detectives, alongside giving you a glimpse of the underbelly and a taste of the cultures of different cities.
Detective Kamil Rahman
The latest in the Detective Kamil Rahman series, 'The Detective' was published in April 2023Ajaychowdhury.com
The recipient of the inaugural Harvill Secker-Bloody Scotland Crime Fiction award is back this year with the third in the series — The Detective, published by Harvill Secker. This one delves into the death of a tech entrepreneur ahead of a four-billion-dollar deal that baffles all, the discovery of centuries-old skeletons, and a lot in between.
Born and brought up in Kolkata and Mumbai, the techie and theatre director, Ajay Chowdhury’s Detective Kamil Rahman is an engrossing 3-part series that traces the journey of a disgraced detective, Kamil Rahman, from Kolkata to London and his absorbing investigation of murders and mysteries.
In the first in the series — The Waiter — Rahman probes the murder of one of his hosts with his boss’ daughter, Anjoli, even as his past haunts him like a shadow. Crimes do not seem to forget Rahman’s address because The Cook has Rahman and Anjoli dig deep into the unexplained deaths of homeless people in their neighbourhood. But there’s more than just systemic racism that links these murders from London to Lahore. Find out how Detective Rahman and Anjoli cut through the web of murky incidents in the latest instalment.
Get your copy here.
Captain Jim and Lady Diana Mysteries
A captivating thriller, ‘Peril at the Exposition’ was published by Minotaur Books in July 2022Nevmarch.com
Nev March, the first Indian-born writer to win the Minotaur Books/ Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award for her debut novel, turns the colonial period into a storehouse of inexplicable events and treacherous truths. Murder in Old Bombay: A Mystery draws on real incidents that happened in 19th-century Bombay. We find Captain Jim Agnihotri spending a tedious convalescence in a hospital devouring Sherlock Holmes books until the responsibility of unravelling the puzzling deaths of two young ladies falls on him. Pushed from the tallest clock tower in the city? — as Captain Jim takes you into the heart of this question, Lady Diana Framji joins the hunt for her sisters’ killer(s).
Cut to 1893, Captain Jim settles with his new bride, Lady Diana, in Boston in Peril at the Exposition, and soon after, goes missing while investigating another murder and digging around in Chicago’s underbelly. Everything seems shrouded in darkness. The streets of Chicago become all the more treacherous as Lady Diana takes it upon herself to decode the truth.
Binge-read this series because another gripping tale is coming your way in the form of The Spanish Diplomat’s Secret this September.
Dive into the world of Captain Jim and Lady Diana here.
Wyndham and Banerjee Mysteries
A riveting mystery based in colonial Bengal, ‘The Shadows of Men’ was published as a hardcover by Harvill Secker in November 2021 and as a paperback by Vintage (an imprint of Penguin) in June 2022Abirmukherjee.com
The zeitgeist of the Raj has been craftily captured in Abir Mukherjee’s historical crime fiction series, Wyndham and Banerjee Mysteries, published by Vintage. Menacing forces lurk everywhere when A Rising Man begins in 1919, and Captain Sam Wyndham takes up an important post in Calcutta’s police force. But a senior official is murdered and a threatening note is left hanging from his mouth — the murderer clearly wants the British to leave India. As Wyndham and his quick-witted Sergeant ‘Surrender-not’ Banerjee try to get to the bottom of this, perilous incidents come their way.
The series maintains a sense of chronology as each novel proceeds by a year. In 1920, on his visit to the Maharaja of Sambalpore in A Necessary Evil, Wyndham learns about the assassination of the Maharaja’s son. But the probe into Prince Adhir’s murder lands Wyndham and Banerjee deep in trouble.
Wyndham’s opium addiction sets Smoke and Ashes in motion, and a deranged killer on the loose makes the tale gut-wrenching. His battle against opium addiction takes Wyndham to the ashram of a monk in the northeast in Death in the East where a man from his past, thought to be long dead, shows up to seek revenge.
Political and religious tension in Calcutta, the murder of a Hindu theologian, a bloodbath about to happen in The Shadows of Men — what will become of the detective duo we have grown fond of?
Navigate through a series of mysteries in The Shadows of Men here.
Arjun Arora Mystery
‘Tears of the Dragon’ is a gritty crime fiction, published by Speaking Tiger in February 2023Speaking Tiger Books
Arjun Arora Mystery by Ankush Saikia can be best described as a noir thriller — gory crime scenes await you at every turn. The fourth mystery — Tears of the Dragon — published by Speaking Tiger, shows the detective's life falling into pieces when he takes up the investigation of the murder of a Delhi-based pharmaceutical company executive in Kolkata. Illegal wildlife trafficking, a zoonotic disease linked with China, corporate rivalry, a love affair gone wrong — arrange the pieces of this puzzle to thread your way to the end of this gripping mystery.
We first meet Arjun Arora (troubled by a failed marriage and a haunting past) in Dead Meat where he investigates a series of massacres. A chopped-up body in a tandoor oven and a missing young accountant with a suitcase stacked with cash, pop up against a backdrop of illegal betting in the wake of T20 matches in Delhi.
Remember Death has Arora going on a nationwide hunt for an alleged air hostess turned killer, while being haunted by a hitman and encountering a deadly secret that pushes him into danger.
The reluctant investigation of the murder of a girl from the northeast in More Bodies Will Fall captures the grimness and conflicts in Nagaland, Manipur, and beyond. One of Arora’s old enemies crops up like a ghost out of the blue to make things murkier than they already are.
Grab a copy of Tears of the Dragon here.
The Bangalore Detectives Club Series
Published by Constable in May 2023, ‘Murder Under a Red Moon’ introduces readers to an astute female detectiveHarininagendra.com
Tired of reserved or eccentric male detectives? Indian ecologist turned crime fiction writer, Harini Nagendra introduces us to a singular detective — Kaveri Murthy — who shows us that sleuthing in a sari isn’t difficult if one is assisted by courage and logic. The Bangalore Detectives Club Series will transport you to 1920s Bangalore where Kaveri has moved after marriage. A peaceful garden party is soon to change into a murder scene and alter the course of Kaveri’s life, resolute as she is to save a vulnerable woman who was incriminated. The period details of colonial Bangalore, together with danger and hole-and-corner events, make this a compelling read.
With the Banglore Detectives Club, Kaveri once again goes on an investigation in Murder Under a Red Moon during a blood moon eclipse. As she inches closer to revealing the killer, she relies on her wits to navigate endless dangers.
Plunge into the gripping tale that is Murder Under a Red Moon here.