If there are seasons for crime fiction, then the current one is hotter than Vindaloo.To begin at the beginning, several promising debut crime novels have appeared, such as Piggies on the Railway by Smita Jain, which is the first in a tongue-in-cheek chick-lit crime series about Mumbai detective Kasthuri Kumar. In this book, she is hired to solve a mystery in the Bollywood film industry, a world that smells alternatively of Chanel 5 and evil muck. Another funny debut title is Manisha Lakhe’s farcical The Betelnut Killers about how an NRI shopkeeper in Oregon tries to import a contract killer from Mumbai to take care of the competition, which results in a big-big mess.From the king of Hindi pulp crime fiction, Surender Mohan Pathak, comes Daylight Robbery, with an attractive cover by the legendary Shelle Studio, translated into crisp, hard-boiled English by Sudarshan Purohit. In Hindi, Pathak’s approximately 300 books have sold many-many millions of copies (or so I’ve heard), and for over three decades the Vimal series has taken Hindi readers on a virtual Bharat Darshan a la noir from Amritsar to Delhi, Jaipur to Agra and even as far south as Mumbai and Chennai.
To top it all off, we get Sherlock Holmes visiting India in Holmes of the Raj, a book that used to be hard to find in bookshops but has now been reissued by Random House. It’s a tribute to Arthur Conan Doyle, who alluded to Sherlock’s adventures in the subcontinent but never wrote about them. Vithal Rajan’s entertaining reconstruction of those Indian cases brings Holmes and Doctor Watson to Puducherry, Hyderabad, Nainital, Kolkata and elsewhere. They meet pretty much the who’s who of colonial days—from Madame Blavatsky and Rudyard Kipling to Swami Vivekananda, Motilal Nehru and Rabindranath Tagore. Which makes this book one of the obvious must-haves of this year.