If you love cozying up in bed on a weekend with a crime-thriller novel, we have 6 of the perfect crime-thriller Indian novels for you, specially curated from Indian Literature.
6 Must-Read Indian Crime-Thriller Novels: Over the years, the category of crime thriller novels has been taken over by several popular, mostly deserved authors from around the world – Americas [Gillian Flynn, James Patterson], Europe [Agatha Christie, Stieg Larsson], and even Australia [Jane Harper, Michael Robotham]. As talented as these authors are, there is a definite lack of reader enthusiasm for books penned by Indian-origin authors and based in the country. As we continue to immerse ourselves in the adrenaline-junkie escapades of these very talented writers, let’s also take a quick look at the essential crime thrillers you should pick up rooted in India.
India is, needless to say, a land of vibrant cultures, history, and traditions. It has proved to be a fertile ground for delving into a plethora of storytelling schemes, especially in the mysteries and miseries of human behavior, psychological perceptions, and webs of deception. In this article, we shall present to you a list of the top 6 Indian crime-thriller novels you should consider making part of your bookshelf.
1. The Complete Adventures of Feluda by Satyajit Ray
The list would be incomplete without mentioning Satyajit Ray. He is a well-known filmmaker and an equally good writer. The Complete Adventures of Feluda, originally published in 1988, has been a massive hit with Indian readers all around. The character first appeared in a Bengali short story called “Feludar Goendagiri,” published in 1965.
The story revolves around Pradosh C. Mitter, or Feluda, a professional sleuth, solving mysteries in and around the region of Bengal. Armed with an incisive wit and his sidekicks – cousin Topshe, and crime writer Lalmohan Ganguly [Jayatu], the group travels across locales to be assigned and unravel mysteries of crime, passion, familial bonds gone wrong, and adventure.
This collection features all the stories written in chronological order, as a set of two volumes. Throughout the stories, therefore, we can read about how Feluda progressively becomes a better and better detective.
A notable captivating story in the book is “The Mystery of the Elephant God.” The trio embarks on a journey to Rajasthan, India, to recover a stolen statuette of an elephant god. Amidst royal intrigue and deceitful treasure hunters, Feluda unravels the enigma with his astute deductions.
2. The Krishna Key by Ashwin Sanghi
“.. History is simply a version of events that can be easily influenced by the political, cultural and religious leanings of those who write it.”
An anthropological thriller by Ashwin Sanghi released in 2012, The Krishna Key makes for a gripping read from start to finish. The story begins with the protagonist, Professor Ravi Saini, accused of murdering his close friend Anil. While Saini is a historian, his late friend is an archaeologist who is involved with deciphering age-old Indus Valley scripts. As the Professor begins to pursue the mystery to decipher the code, he falls through multiple traps of history and mythology.
The book is a deeply-researched piece involving history, mythology, mystery, and adventure. If you enjoy reading about the various inventions by Vedas, allusions to the Indian epic of Mahabharata, and plentiful historical information, this is the book for you. There are criticisms of this book which regard the information as too complex to be intertwined the right way in a mystery novel, but the book has also gained much praise for the same. Parallel to the main storyline, the author also delineates the life of Lord Krishna, mentioning in an interview that he did so because Krishna is a “perfectly grey character”.
Related to Must-Read Indian Crime-Thriller Novels: Discovering Indian Mythology: 10 Books on Gods, Goddesses, and Epics
3. The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh
Written in 1995 by the popular author of the Ibis trilogy, The Calcutta Chromosome is a one-of-its-kind medical thriller that will keep you hooked. A relatively short read, it won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for best science fiction book in 1996.
The book follows the disappearance of L. Murugan, an employee at LifeWatch organization, who is after the so-called “Calcutta Chromosome”. He follows the life of Sir Ronald Ross, who he is fascinated with, across the streets of Calcutta. What follows is a pandemonium of anecdotes, secrets, underground practices, and mixed-up timelines. It begins with Ross’s research on malaria, which propagates into much more extensive research on life and genetics. The novel will guide you through the intricacies of human life, conspiracy theories, and much food for thought – all at one brisk pace.
While the ending [no spoilers!] might leave some with a sense of unfinished business, it is definitely worth a read to perk up your senses on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
4. A Murder On Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey
“The boundaries communities drew around themselves seemed to narrow their lives – whether it was women and men, Hindus and Muslims, or Parsis and everyone else.”
Also known as The Widows of Malabar Hill, the book is set in 1920s Bombay and is loosely based on the first female Indian lawyer, Perveen Mistry. It introduces Perveen as the new sleuth on the streets and involves her in a household murder mystery she tumbles on to solve. She has recently joined her father’s law firm and is a champion of women’s rights due to both her position and her volatile past.
Since its release in 2018, the book has won multiple awards, including the Agatha Award and Lefty Award for the Best Historical Novel and the Mary Higgins Clark Award. It’s a rich plot with multitudinous details thrown in about 20’s cultural life in Bombay and will give you a glimpse of the life and times of early 20th century residents – the higher social class as well as the minority lives. The book is full of twists and turns that keep you on your toes till the end; when you reach it, you are soothed by the knowledge that there are three more books you can devour in the series after this.
The most recent installation, The Mistress of Bhatia House, was published in July 2023.
Also Read: 10 New Books to Look Forward to in July 2023
5. Cut Like Wound by Anita Nair
Published in 2012 by HarperCollins, Cut Like Wound is set in the city of Bengaluru with detective Borei Gowda. A serial killer on the loose makes Inspector Gowda dive deeper into multiple murders around the city. As investigations begin and more murders take place, the detective starts to notice patterns and forms links between them, eventually leading to unraveling the mystery of both the crime as well as his personal life.
The book involves a clever killer, a cleverer detective, both jumbling along the sights and scents of the garden city of Bengaluru. Along with the main storyline, the book expands with the problems and trials of the detective, creating a notable subplot to explore.
It also beautifully builds an emotional connection to the police and the transgender community with the reader, thus having you sympathize with the writing and fall in love with flawed yet realistic characters. The book stands to be a psychological thriller that ultimately makes you question whose side you would want to be on.
6. Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra
“In this city, the rich had some room, and the middle class had less, and the poor had none.”
If you’ve loved the Netflix adaptation of the Scared Games, despite the 900+ page tome, you will love the book. Set in late 20th century underground Bombay and, parallelly, in present-day, it follows the story of inspector Sartaj Singh who is called upon to pursue infamous gangster Gaitonde.
The novel weaves deftly through a multitude of smaller stories – across genres of love, ambition, loneliness, politics, and much more. It has won multiple awards since its release and, of course, was adapted into the popular eponymous web series. The book breathes life into the cultural phenomenon that is the city of Mumbai and makes sure that the characters and storyline don’t leave you long after you’ve finished reading the book. Following political upheavals, turnabout romances, and post-colonial India’s search for true freedom, the book covers many themes, leaving you satisfied with the raw and compelling thrill. A definite must-read in the Indian crime thriller list!