In that batch of Blaft books there were two stand out titles that are must haves for every crime collection: The 65 Lakh Heist by Surender Mohan Pathak and The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction. Both of these books are Highly Recommended.
After reading The 65 Lakh Heist (and another translated piece of Japanese crime fiction) I wrote an article over at Spinetingler about Asian crime fiction. In it I talked about the difference between fiction set in another country and fiction from another country. Fiction that comes from another country is written with that country's readers in mind and comes from their literary traditions and their culture. In other words a book like The 65 Lakh Heist was not written with an English audience in mind
I liked The 65 Lakh Heist so much that I recommend it regularly and try to keep my eyes open for other Indian Crime fiction releases. A little rabbit hole searching brought up some articles talking about books and authors that were totally new to me. Score! I also learned about a new crime fiction imprint of Penguin India called Blue Salt. So let's take a look at some of the recent Indian crime fiction books. The great news is that a lot of these books are available through Amazon.
A Cut-Like Wound by Anita Nair
It's the first day of Ramadan in heat-soaked Bangalore. A young man begins to dress: makeup, a sari, and expensive pearl earrings. Before the mirror he is transformed into Bhuvana. She is a hijra, a transgender seeking love in the bazaars of the city.
What Bhuvana wants, she nearly gets: a passing man is attracted to this elusive young woman—but someone points out that Bhuvana is no woman. For that, the interloper's throat is cut. A case for Inspector Borei Gowda, going to seed, and at odds with those around him including his wife, his colleagues, even the informers he must deal with. More corpses and Urmila, Gowda's ex-flame, are added to this spicy concoction of a mystery novel.
Most intriguing is the grim world of Bhuvana. Her hijra fantasies, emotions, and hopes are etched in a way that is chilling yet oddly touching. Some mysteries remain till almost the end, for instance Bhuvana's connection with the wealthy, corrupt Corporator Ravikumar, who lives in a mansion as grand as the Mysore Palace and controls whole districts of Bangalore.
The Price You Pay by Somnath Batabyal
An ambitious rookie reporter, a veteran news editor with a secret, a trigger-happy policeman, a sensational kidnapping: The Price You Pay is the story of Delhi, told through the eyes of the journalists who frame it, the policemen who protect it, and the outsiders who claim it.
When AbhishekDutta joins the Express as a trainee journalist, he has no idea how his life is about to change. Assigned to the crime beat by chief reporter Amir Akhtar, Abhishek encounters a motley cast of characters: DCP Uday Kumar, the ‘Dirty Harry’ of Delhi Police; ACP Crime Branch Mayank Sharma, who becomes a close friend; SamirSaxena, channel head of News Today, who mentors Abhishek’s move from print to electronic journalism; and dreaded gangster Babloo Shankar, who runs the Delhi mafia from exile. As he rides his beginner’s luck to unearth one sensational scoop after the other, Abhishek will soon discover that in the dog-eat-dog world of crime and politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies; it is every man for himself.
With a plot that twists and turns like the inner lanes of the city, SomnathBatabyal’s debut novel takes you into the dark underbelly of India, where common lives are mere pawns in deadly power games and where corruption lies at the very core.
Item Girl by Richa Lakhera
Sunheri and Suhana twin sisters who share a horrific childhood get caught up in a vortex of pain and deceit when Sunheri, a popular item girl in Bollywood, is accused of murdering her vicious uncle and is sent to jail. Suhana, an aspiring filmmaker, is determined to seek justice for her sister but comes up against Kala, their stepmother, who has hatched diabolical plans of her own. And when three other manipulative item girls Nargis, Digital Dolly and Daisy are identified as key eyewitnesses in Sunheri s case, the matter only becomes more complicated.
Throw into the mix an explosive rape-tape, a brutal blackmailer, a cruel boyfriend, a cynical journalist who knows too much, and a hard-boiled cop, and what you have is a mind-bending psychological thriller that will hold you hostage until the end. An intense, gripping account of the dark side of showbiz, there is never a dull moment in Item Girl.
From the author of the bestselling Garbage Beat comes Item Girl, a dark crime thriller set in the psychedelic lights of Bollywood.
The author's sharp insight into Bollywood and its machinations brings to vivid life the motley characters in the story.
Quantam Siege by Brijesh Singh
This is the endgame. The terror group Lashkar has directly threatened the prime minister of India with 'never before' consequences, if referendum is not declared in Kashmir immediately. The UN Security Council has called for an emergency session scheduled to meet within two days to discuss the Kashmir crisis.
Rudra Pratap Singh and his team at the Anti-Terror Cell face their toughest challenge yet. Millions of innocent lives are at stake while India readies itself for a war, the terrorists' threat is about to actualize, and time is running out. Will they be able to neutralize the threat, trace the perpetrators and avert a war?
Set in the heart of a metropolis, this diabolical thriller will consume you in its labyrinthine madness.
A Convenient Culprit by Vibha Singh
Ace crime journalist Joy Dutta is killed, and his arch rival, Jagruti Verma, is accused of using her alleged connection with the dreaded don Chikna Ramu to commit the murder. Their mentor and ex-boss, Ammar Aney, whose exposés had earned him the respect of his fraternity, and whose enemies had conspired to destroy his personal and professional life, is forced out of retirement to get justice for both Joy and Jagruti. As he delves deeper, Aney realizes that the culprits and their motives are moredangerous than he could have ever imagined.
The Bad Boys of Bokaro Jail* by Chetan Mahajan
What happens when a business executive is thrown into a jail in small town Jharkhand? He ends up with an education of a lifetime…
When Chetan Mahajan is wrongfully sent to Bokaro jail, he encounters a world completely different from his corporate life in Delhi. From picking the best prison ward, befriending the people who can get him mobile phone access and upgraded food, and training for his upcoming marathon in the tiny prison yard, Chetan soon learns to work the prison system. In the process he makes unlikely friends, and discovers what India’s underbelly really looks like.
A true story, The Bad Boys of Bokaro Jail, is thought provoking, amusing and touching. It will show you the Indian prison as you have never seen it before.
Ghalib Danger by Neeraj Pandey
Kamran Khan is a cocky young taxi driver trying to make it big in Mumbai. But his life transforms when he saves a don called Mirza from being killed. What seems like a good deed however has a cruel payback and in a single moment, Kamran loses everything dear to him. This is when Mirza, in gratitude, takes Kamran under his wing and the young man gets drawn into the mafia boss’s dangerous world of cops and rival gangsters, eventually taking over from him. Kamran also inherits Mirza’s philosophy that all of life’s problems can be solved through Ghalib¹s poetry. Soon, the innocent taxi driver has cops, criminals and even cabinet ministers at his beck and call.
And he has a new name—Ghalib Danger.
The Tantalus Redemption by Yudhi Raman
Have you heard of Tantalus, Jurvir? He stole the ambrosia of the gods and was cursed by Zeus to be trapped forever between a bountiful fruit tree and a pool of water. Whenever he tries to eat, the branches rise away. When he tries to drink, the water recedes. It's the source of the English word tantalize. To be ever so close to the unattainable.'
When Jurvir Nair strikes the deal of a lifetime on the Lionhead mine, a tantalum deposit in Africa worth billions, little does he realize that it will lead him to Magan, a sinister figure from his past. Jurvir is a master of the high-stakes world of international finance, but nothing has prepared him for the clandestine blood-soaked trade in tantalum, an exotic metal without which the twenty-first century would come to a standstill. When Jurvir and Magan come face to face, their conflict spirals out of the boardroom into a battle of retribution that only one of them can survive.
A blistering, fast-paced debut novel set against the thunderous monsoons of Mumbai, the wild savannah of Africa, the trading floors of London and the bank vaults of Switzerland, The Tantalus Redemption is a rollercoaster tale of murder, revenge and destiny - and the blood lost in making your mobile phone.
The Avatari by Raghu Srinivasan
A mythical kingdom Legend has it that only those chosen by destiny can gain entry into Shambhala, the mythical kingdom believed to hold the ancient wisdom that humanity will need to resurrect itself from the inevitable apocalypse. They are the Avatari. An ancient artefact When Henry Ashton, a retired British Army officer settled in the Yorkshire dales, receives a letter from a monk entreating him to prevent a `hidden treasure? stolen from a Laotian monastery from being misused, he finds himself honour-bound to respond. Assisted by a retired Gurkha Sergeant, a high-strung mathematician from Oxford with a Shambhala fixation of her own, and an American mercenary on the CIA?s hit list, Ashton?s mission leads to an ancient map that dates back to the time of the great Mongol, Kublai Khan. A secret that must not be revealed The group follows the trail, risking the perils of the inhospitable deserts of Ladakh, turmoil in Pakistan and the rugged mountains of Northern Afghanistan, where the Afghan War is at its height. But they are up against a deadly adversary with seemingly unlimited resources, who will stop at nothing to get possession of the ancient secret ? a secret that, if revealed, could threaten the very fabric of human civilization?'
The Sad Demise of Manpreet Singh by Patrick Bryson
Dominic ‘Biscuit’ McLeod is an expert in making the best out of a bad situation. As a visa fraud investigator at the Australian High Commission, New Delhi, Biscuit is legendary for his prowess in drinking beer, playing cricket, and swearing like a Dilliwallah, until the tragic death of a junior colleague forces him to become something else – a conspiracy theorist who can’t let go. Armed with only a hangover, a loathing for authority, and an inability to believe the lies that he is being told, Biscuit stumbles from crisis to catastrophe in a shambolic search for the truth. From the villages of Punjab to the cricket fields of Delhi, and the walled compounds of Gurgaon and Chanakyapuri, with dodgy visa agents, crooked cops, Aussies journalists, Afghani pimps and American spies for company, Biscuit never looks like solving the case, or leaving the party early. A bold comic debut, The Sad Demise of Manpreet Singh is a novel about the things people will do to leave the places they don’t want to be, and the lengths others will go to try and stop them.
Stalked by Girvani Dhyani
Tara Bakshi is a young lawyer with a difficult boss. No matter how hard she works, how many all-nighters she pulls, he is never satisfied. When she starts work on the top-secret assignment, Project Emerald, Tara discovers that someone had been tampering with the files and her boss asks her to find the culprit. As time ticks and Tara uncovers one evidence after another, someone starts stalking her every move. He shadows her on the street, in the parking lot, in her own bedroom; nowhere is she safe from his prying gaze. The only clue she has to his identity is a Zippo lighter with a serpent carved on it.
As events turn darker with back-to-back murders, Tara teeters on the verge of a collapse. What does the killer want from her? Is he hiding behind a familiar face? Even as her life turns into a whirling nightmare that pulls her into its web, Tara must discover the truth before he strikes again …
A riveting thriller that will keep you guessing till the end.
Compass Box Killer: An Inspector Virkar Crime Thriller by Piyush Jha
This book is a crime thriller, set in the by-lanes of Mumbai. One muggy afternoon, a senior police officer is found murdered at his desk. When Inspector Virkar from the Crime Branch arrives at the scene, he finds a cryptic note that spills out of a student s compass box. Then begins a series of killings and in each, a telltale compass box reveals more clues.
Accompanied by the attractive, ambitious TV reporter, Raashi Hunerwal, Virkar has to race against time to catch the Compass Box Killer before the bodies pile up. As the investigation shuttles from Mumbai to Khandala to Belgaum, Virkar is taken deep into a labyrinth of backroom deals that lead to shocking revelations about the ruthless killer s motives.
Slick plot twists and high-adrenaline action mark the first of the Inspector Virkar Crime Thrillers part of the Mumbaistan series. Tough, daring and relentless in his pursuit of justice, Inspector Virkar is a policeman one wishes every city had.
The Butcher of Benares by Mahendra Jakhar
The shocking and brutal murder of a young American woman rips apart the peace of the ancient city of Benares. She is found to be a research scientist working with the Vatican Observatory, one of the oldest astronomical research institutions in the world. Hawa Singh, a senior inspector from Delhi crime branch on a visit to Benares, gets embroiled in the case. He finds that the murdered woman had been researching the Bhrigu-Samhita, an astrological classic dating back to pre-Vedic times, believed to be lost. The FBI sends in Ruby Malik, a Pakistani-American to investigate the murder. Soon, more bodies are found with bizarre connections to both the Bhrigu-Samhita and Christian orthodoxy. The Vatican seems to be carrying out a clandestine operation, seeking the secrets of Hindu astrology in the city most sacred to it.Secrets that the Vatican would kill to know. Hawa Singh, hardened by many gunfights, and with a bullet already lodged near his brain in a previous encounter, teams up with Ruby Malik to unravel the mystery. Nothing is the same any more. The temple bells fade in the perpetual winter fog. There is blood on the streets of Benares, which becomes a battleground where faith and science collide. The worlds of astronomy and astrology come .Hawa Singh and Ruby search the opium dens, and the domains of Naga sadhus, Aghoris and Doms in the cremation grounds, hunt a cannibal lurking in the maze that is Benares, and clash with the figurehead king of the city, Kashi Naresh Maharaj Abhay Narayan Singh. The killer could be anyone. Only Hawa Singh and his beautiful co-runner on the chase, Ruby Malik, possess the mindset—and the indomitable courage—to find the murderer at the heart of this mystery. And in the process, find themselves.Dongri to Dubai* by S. Hussain Zaidi
Dongri to Dubai is the first ever attempt to chronicle the history of the Mumbai mafia. It is the story of notorious gangsters like Haji Mastan, Karim Lala, Varadarajan Mudaliar, Chhota Rajan, Abu Salem, but above all, it is the story of a young man who went astray despite having a father in the police force. Dawood Ibrahim was initiated into crime as a pawn in the hands of the Mumbai police and went on to wipe out the competition and eventually became the Mumbai police’s own nemesis.The narrative encompasses several milestones in the history of crime in India, from the rise of the Pathans, formation of the Dawood gang, the first ever supari, mafia’s nefarious role in Bollywood, Dawood’s move to Karachi, and Pakistan’s subsequent alleged role in sheltering one of the most wanted persons in the world.This story is primarily about how a boy from Dongri became a don in Dubai, and captures his bravado, cunningness, focus, ambition, and lust for power in a gripping narrative. The meticulously researched book provides an in-depth and comprehensive account of the mafia’s games of supremacy and internecine warfare.
Mumbai Noir came out a couple of years ago as part of Akashic's noir series. I'm not familiar enough yet with Indian crime fiction to say how good the selection is or how representative it is of the genre but certainly it is worth a look.
A couple of observations jump out. The first is that a number of the books are thrillers. The second is that there is a relationship with Bollywood. Bollywood film makers write books and in others Bollywood story telling elements become apparent. This suggests that getting a film made is certainly a goal of some of these writers.
The crime fiction world is large and I love finding new parts of it explore.
What do you think, do any of these Indian crime fiction titles sound interesting to you?