It has now been more than 9 months since In the Shadows of Death reached thriller aficionados across the world. In the Shadows of Death has consistently been among the big sellers in various listings and the feedback my debut novel has received from readers, bloggers and the mainstream media has been overwhelming. An eminent writer and blogger ranked it among 6 books that broke stereotypes in 2015.
While readers have loved the non-linear storytelling, the characterizations, and the several twists, the tragedy and the romance at the core has been noticed and appreciated. Being primarily a chronicler of the various shades of human relationships, this makes me happy.
As a reader, I love a thriller with a soul. And the works of several eminent authors I have read over the years have been truly inspirational.
Along Came A Spider – James Patterson
The book introduces Alex Cross, the detective with a PhD in psychology. Cross is hot on the pursuit of a killer who can be a victim of a multiple-personality disorder, or, a ruthless manipulator. The book is packed with unpredictable twists and the frantic pace of the story kept me up for nights. However, what makes the book special to me is the portrayal of Cross as a doting father struggling to strike the right balance between his work and his responsibilities at home, and as a human being who is not above emotional crises and indecision. Patterson’s portrayal of Cross was a huge inspiration when I conceived my own detective Agni Mitra for my book In the Shadows of Death – very flesh-and-blood, never larger than life.
Malice – Keigo Higashino
The book is about an author Hidaka who gets killed in his study shortly after a visit by Nonoguchi, his friend from middle school. The detective Kaga soon discovers perplexing details about the authors, their relationships, and their past. What I found fascinating about Malice is that, by the halfway mark, Kaga, and in turn, the reader, is convinced of the identity of the killer, but, what makes Malice such a masterpiece is the next half, which deals with how Kaga establishes the motive of the crime. Every incident, every human action, every piece of evidence the detective discovers is given a fresh perspective, a stunningly different explanation every few pages. Malice is a masterclass of criminal psychology, and is one of the books that opened my eyes to the fact that, most appealing in a thriller are the human emotions that drive one down the path of crime.
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
Gone Girl is about Nick and the unprecedented turn of events in his life when his wife Amy disappears on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary. Flynn presents the perspectives of Nick and Amy in different sections of the book. The twists in the tale are jaw-dropping and one hardly sees them coming. What I love about Gone Girl, and in fact about the other works of Flynn, is the no-holds-barred exploration of the darkest recesses of the human mind, narrated in an almost leisurely but chilling fashion. This story, again, is a classic example of how we give in to inner devils and unleash the criminal lurking inside each one of us – a theme that resonates in In the Shadows of Death.
The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling)
The book introduces private investigator Cormoran Strike investigating into the mysterious death of a troubled model. Rowling captures the atmosphere of London, a city I am in love with, like only she can. And then, the unconventional characterization of her detective. Strike, a wounded war veteran struggling to make ends meet after having been thrown out of his girlfriend’s house, has to come to terms with his celebrity lineage and a turbulent childhood and eventually warms up to Robin, who takes up a temporary job as his office assistant, and ends up being much more. Once again, here is a brilliant portrayal of a detective – strong and intelligent yet, very ‘human’, almost broke and grappling with relationship issues.
Byomkesh Bakshi novels by Saradindu Bandopadhyay
One of my favourite collections of detective stories by the master storyteller. Saradindu gets into the psyche of his characters churning out stories that portray a myriad human emotions steeped in the milieu of contemporary Bengal. An institution in storytelling, this is a treasure trove of stories that are relevant even today. When I started writing, these are the stories I turned to for education.