Cosy crime reads
Editor’s note: We feature the brilliant recommendations of our partner, the Champaca Bookstore, in the Read section twice a month. FYI: Champaca is an independent women-run and founded bookstore and children's library in Bangalore.
As leaves change colour, and the city prepares for cooler weather, we at Champaca find comfort in curling up with a hot cup of tea and a cosy crime novel. While some books get our investigative minds ticking, making us want to solve the crime before the characters do—some raise important questions about the society we live in. This month, we ask you to join us in reading this varied bunch of crime novels and try to solve the crime before time runs out!
Black River by Nilanjana Roy. Journeying between the past and present and Delhi and Teetarpur, a village on the Delhi-Haryana border, ‘Black River’ is a police procedural that addresses class divide and the horrors of religious strife. The book opens with a small girl witnessing a murder, and within the span of a few chapters, she is found dead, hanging from a jamun tree.
While her father, Chand, and the other villagers deal with the aftermath of this untimely death, the police try their best to nab the murderer before communal tension creates a ridge in the community. The book also talks about Yamuna or the ‘black river’, its growing population of squatters, and their constant struggle to find community and some semblance of permanence as they go about their lives.
Murder in Mahim by Jerry Pinto. Jerry Pinto’s ‘Murder in Mahim’ like many of his other novels, is set in Mumbai. While being a gripping murder mystery, it is also an exploration of loneliness, ambition and greed in the metropolis. Retired journalist Peter D’Souza assists his friend Inspector Zende in an investigation when a body is found at Matunga station, with the stomach ripped open, and a missing kidney.
The book uses the murder as a backdrop to talk about the lives and stigma of male sex workers in Mumbai. As the investigation progresses, Peter is drawn into a world of secret desire, blackmail and unspoken love—a world that he fears his son may be a part of. Driven by fear, empathy, and curiosity about ‘men who seek men’, Peter tries to track down the killer with help from the flamboyant Leslie Siqueira, ‘the Queen of the Queen of the Suburbs,’ before time runs out.
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. Police Inspector Alan Grant is obsessed with unravelling historical mysteries. An active man, Grant relies on his brain to help him solve cases. He also studies faces and uses his intuition to help him crack cases. As he lies in bed and bored out of his mind, Grant’s friends introduce him to one of the oldest cold cases—that of Richard III. After sifting through a barrage of contradictory information, and asking every visitor to provide their opinion on Richard III’s portrait, the duo unearth long-buried intrigues and comes to a startling conclusion.
Tey’s last novel before her death, ‘The Daughter of Time’ explores how history is constructed, and how certain versions of events come to be widely accepted as the truth, despite the lack of evidence.
An Expert in Murder by Nicola Upson. Set against the backdrop of the theatre scene of the 1930s, the novel begins with crime writer and playwright Josephine Tey travelling from Scotland to London to celebrate a triumphant final week of her celebrated play. However, a murder puts both her life and reputation under threat. ‘An Expert in Murder’, besides being a detective novel, is also a tribute to one of the most popular crime writers of her time.
An Irish Hostage by Charles Todd. Set right after the end of World War I, ‘An Irish Hostage’ centres around the life of Bess Crawford, a nurse in Ireland. Although the war has ended, tensions remain high in Europe, especially in Ireland, where no one has forgotten the 1916 Easter Rising that sought to end British rule in the country. Despite concerns about safety, Bess agrees to travel to Ireland to attend her friend Eileen’s wedding.
Eileen’s time with the British army makes her a target for retaliation. Her only protection is her cousin who is now missing and being hunted by the British. On Bess’s arrival, she discovers that the groom has gone missing. It is up to Bess to unravel a dark, deceptive plot to protect her friend and clear her name.
Kala by Colin Walsh. It’s 2003 and Helen, Joe and Mush are part of a group of six inseparable teenagers. One day, the most popular one of their group, Kala Lanann, disappears without a trace. Fifteen years later, two more girls go missing, and human remains are discovered in the woods.
As the three friends are brought together for the first time in years, they are forced to confront their complicity in the events that led to Kala’s disappearance and to stop these violent patterns from repeating themselves. Set against the backdrop of a seaside town Kinlough or Ireland’s west coast, ‘Kala’ examines the brutal costs of belonging, and the battle between vengeance and forgiveness, despair and redemption.
Life at Champaca
How has the weather been treating you? It has been unusually hot and though we enjoy the intermittent rain, we look forward to cooler weather! In October, we have lined up a set of exciting events - from book launches to storytelling, including a musical performance—check them out here! If you’re in Bangalore, we invite you to come to our lush, leafy store, attend the events and browse through our shelves with some cold ginger ale or a hot cup of coffee, as per the whims and fancies of the ever-changing Bangalore weather!