Sneha Pathak curates a list of contemporary Indian fictional detectives that every thriller lover must read.
I have always loved detective novels. As a child, I was always desperate to read more of the Enid Blyton series which was scarce in my small hilly town. What fulfilled my craving somewhat were the detective shows featured on Doordarshan in the nineties.
Be it Sam D’Silva and his sidekick Gopi with D’Silva’s quintessential opening line “Hum yahan tehkikaat karne aaye hain” or Suraag’s CID officer Bharat, I devoured them all. But my favourite was the dhoti-clad, mild-mannered Byomkesh Bakshi played by the very handsome Rajit Kapoor. Little did I know that this was to be my first introduction to an Indian detective born between the pages of a book.
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Later, I discovered the legendary Feluda, but stories featuring him only whetted my appetite and I realised that while I enjoy reading a novel featuring a detective on a case set almost anywhere in the world, my absolute favourites are those set in India.
With this in mind, here is a list of Indian Fictional Detectives. I have not included any historical mystery novels here because, frankly, they deserve a list of their own!
List of Contemporary Indian Fictional Detectives
Table of Contents
Janardan Maity by Bhaskar Chattopadhyay
The top spot of this list of Indian Fictional Detectives goes to the detective created by my favourite detective – Bhaskar Chattopadhyay’s Janardan Maity. Maity is a mild-mannered gentleman whom we first meet in Penumbra where he solves an ingenious murder where the book’s narrator Prakash Rey is one of the suspects.
Since then, Maity has appeared in three more books, and one more is expected to be released in the coming year. Chattopadhyay’s books have old-world charm and ingenious puzzles reminding a reader of the classic mysteries where she can lose herself completely.
Harith Athreya by RV Raman
Second on this list of Indian Fictional Detectives is Harith Athreya, the creation of RV Raman who has previously written thrillers set in the business world in India. Like Maity, Athreya is also a full-time sleuth whose cases always take place in exotic locales.
Athreya is a seasoned investigator whom we first meet in A Will to Kill and since then he has appeared in four more adventures and solved some pretty complex cases.
Vish Puri by Tarquin Hall
So here’s the thing – I know that Hall isn’t an Indian per se, but he has created a detective who imbibes the soul of a quintessential Punjabi uncleji and whose type we all might have come across sometime or the other.
Puri first appeared in The Case of the Missing Servant and his last outing to date happened in 2019. Novels featuring Puri are a combination of mystery with humour and a delight to read. Perhaps it is the fact that Hall is an outsider that makes him such a great observer of our society and people, but he does very well with this overweight detective who triumphs over difficult problems every single time.
Arjun Arora by Ankush Saikia
Saikia’s Arjun Arora is a professional detective whose world is reminiscent of hard-boiled detectives like Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade. Arora is a professional detective with a drinking habit and a personal life that is in ruins. We first meet him in Dead Meat and his latest outing was Tears of the Dragon. Arora moves into the underbelly of Delhi and his books are full of missing people and dead bodies, life-threatening situations, and a lot of action.
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ACP Bhavani Singh by Anuja Chauhan
ACP Bhavani Singh is the creation of Anuja Chauhan and has been featured in two novels to date – Club You to Death and The Fast and the Dead. Bhavani Singh is a mild-mannered policeman who doesn’t believe in using physical force or torturing people to get information, rather he inspires confidence in people he meets and gets them to spill the beans. The ACP Bhavani books are light-hearted and comic relief along with a generous dollop of romance makes them worth reading.
Inspector Borei Gowda by Anita Nair
Anita Nair’s Inspector Gowda is a policeman similar to and different from the image one generally has of those in the police force. While he is a cop who loves his bike and drinks more than his family, he is also a sharp mind who can solve a complex crime more easily than is suggested by his exterior. He first made an appearance in Cut Like Wound and his third and latest adventure was published in 2023.
Colonel Acharya by Tanushree Podder
Colonel Arjun H Acharya is a retired army personnel who has decided to spend his life in the small but picturesque town of Ramsar. Unfortunately, he keeps finding himself embroiled in mysteries that happen in and around the town. With the help of his group of friends from the town, he investigates them all, finding solutions to cases and helping the local police in the process. The three books in the series so far are full of local colour and quirky characters besides the central mystery.
Detective Lalli by Kalpana Swaminathan
Lalli is a woman in her sixties who has a sharp mind and an even sharper nose that smells the criminal out. Set mostly in the sprawling city of Mumbai, the books in this series are narrated by Lalli’s niece Sita who is an aspiring author herself. Lalli made her first appearance in The Page Three Murders but the book seems to be unavailable at present. Lalli’s latest adventure, The Kala Ghoda Affair, was published in 2023 by Speaking Tiger.
I have read and enjoyed the company of all these detectives, sometimes just in one and sometimes more of their adventures, and would recommend you try them all. However, if you’d like to read just one or two from this list, my vote would go with Janardan Maity, Harith Athreya, or Vish Puri.