Murder, she wrote

Author and ecologist Harini Nagendra speaks to CE on her soon-to-be-launched book themed around a murder mystery set in colonial Bengaluru

Published: 23rd March 2022 06:47 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd March 2022 06:47 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BENGALURU: If you are a fan of murder mystery series like Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Vaseem Khan’s Baby Ganesh Agency and Ovidia Yu’s Crown Colony series, then you are in for a desi crime-thriller treat with the launch of Harini Nagendra’s new book. Titled The Bangalore Detective Club, Nagendra will be launching her third book in April which is centred around a cosy crime story set in the colonial period of Bengaluru.

As a first in the three-part series, the book features two protagonists — Kaveri and Ramu — set out to solve a crime that takes place at Century Club in Cubbon Park. Nagendra explains that the story is a combination of how Kaveri and Ramu use their investigative instincts in their own style to solve the crime. “This thriller actually predates my previous book 

Nature in the City. The idea cropped up in 2007 but a lot of other commitments took precedence. I started working earnestly only in 2018,” says Nagendra, who is also the author of Cities and Canopies.

Besides the crime template, the book is set in 1921 to give a colonial Bengaluru feel. Nagendra says, “A lot of creative fusion took place during this time period. Century Club was a place where Indians could socialise. Calls for Independence were muted but were rising; post World War I, women had more freedom, broke conventions and had access to education. This setting actually blended well with one of the central characters of the book. Kaveri, a 19-year-old feisty woman who is newly-married, solves a murder mystery wearing a saree and understands her neighbourhood while her husband Ramu, a doctor at Bowring Hospital, solves the same murder mystery using a more professional tactic,” says Nagendra, who also suggests watching out for ‘Uma aunty’, a nosy neighbour, infamous for her tidbits of gossip.

A lot of characters in the book are inspired by Nagendra’s real-life encounters with close ones. “In fact, the idea of the protagonist wearing a  saree was inspired by my husband’s aunt who used to go swimming in a saree. Some characters are also inspired by the women in my family who broke many social conventions,” says Nagendra, who is a fan of ‘golden age’ detective mysteries set in World War I and II.

The story also involves a lot of underbelly activities in Bengaluru’s Basavanagudi, Cubbon Park, MG Road and the surrounding Cantonment area. Her research work around ecology has also been woven into the book with the protagonist talking about trees, lakes, birds, and the landscape that shaped colonial Bengaluru. “Writing a mystery thriller was a different experience. My previous books already had a structure, but for this book, I had to plot it, which was hard. Over the course of 14 years, I changed the plot over three times,” says Nagendra.

Interestingly, the book concludes with a highlight of a series of South Indian food recipes. “The story extensively carries kitchen stories and how Kaveri learns to prepare new dishes. Hence, you can find a series of recipes at the end of the book that will guide you to cook an authentic Karnataka meal, starting from bisi bele bath to dry fruit ladoo,” says Nagendra.

India Matters


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