‘Pop fiction is underexplored in India’
Reema Ray, the kickass detective with a baking problem, is back with a bang! Last seen in The Masala Murder and the short story There Will Be Cake, she returns with Dead in a Mumbai Minute – and just about everything is different. A new city, a new job, a new wardrobe, a new oven and most importantly, a new, terribly sensational murder investigation. In a candid chat with Millennium Post, author Madhumita Bhattacharyya reveals some fascinating secrets about Reema and her murder mystery.
What prompted you to write Dead In A Mumbai Minute?
Reema Ray, the detective in Dead In A Mumbai Minute, first appeared in The Masala Murder in 2012. At that time, she was a scrappy, small-time private eye in Kolkata, with a food-writing gig on the side to keep a roof over her head. She solves a murder, which helps her land a job in a major security firm. Dead in a Mumbai Minute follows Reema’s journey as she starts over again in a new city, with another high-profile murder case on her plate, this time involving a Bollywood star, and far more difficult, alien terrain.
Why did you choose this particular genre?
I have always loved reading mystery novels and thrillers. Plus, English commercial fiction in India is still in its infancy and there seemed to be an opportunity there. While we have produced many literary giants, pop fiction is so underexplored it is shocking. Why shouldn’t India have some quality thriller writers?
What was your greatest challenge while writing this book?
The challenge was purely personal. I was dealing with a pregnancy, multiple moves of home and city and a hyperactive puppy – none of which were conducive to concentration!
Tell us a little more about yourself and how long have you been writing?
I have been writing forever, but started to do so professionally straight out of college, at The Telegraph newspaper in Calcutta. I left when I moved to Shanghai for a couple of years, though I have continued to write freelance.
With extra time on my hands, I was finally able to seriously pursue my interest in writing fiction.
Calcutta has been home for the longest time, but in the past few years, there has been a lot of movement. I wrote The Masala Murder while in Shanghai. Dead in a Mumbai Minute is a product of three cities -- Delhi, Gurgaon and Bangalore. I hope to stay put for a while!
Who are your literary inspirations?
I have been inspired by so many writers, though I wouldn’t go so far as to call them influences. Margaret Atwood has been a huge force in my reading life.
Books that have moved me greatly in the past few years include Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending.
I am a huge Potterhead and loved The Cuckoo’s Calling. Amongst mystery writers, Agatha Christie remains the undisputed queen.
Any message for the younger lot?
I feel I have more to learn from young people than they have to learn from me. So many are so inspired, so creative, so adventurous. If anything, my advice to them is to not listen to the older lot!
What next? One more mystery?
Yes! There is another Reema Ray mystery being hatched, which you can expect next year. After that, I have a few ideas that have been gestating for some time, one of which is for young adults and the other a more serious mystery novel.