12 Must-Read Indian Translated Mystery Books

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Team P3 curates a list of recommended translated mystery books from India for your TBR!

India has a longstanding tradition of storytelling, a tradition that goes beyond decades and centuries. Not just that, it’s a tradition that’s incredibly dynamic and varied, thanks to the many regions and cultures that come under this subcontinent. Today, we try and look at some of the most notable works from Indian literature in a specific genre, namely, the mystery and thriller categories.

Not just that, we look at translated mystery books in English from other Indian languages, including Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, and more. This creates interesting combinations, laced with specific cultural exchanges and contexts, not commonly found in English literature. All of this helps you experience a state, a region, or a language, a little bit more, and understand them better. If you think our curation here is missing a particular title or set of titles, let us know in the comments below, and we shall revise it accordingly. Let’s get our investigation underway then!

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Recommended Indian Translated Mystery Books

Another Outsider

Title: Another Outsider

Author: Written by Samaresh Mazumdar, translated by Manojit Mitra

Publisher: BEE Books

Price: 216

Pages: 208


Topping the list of Translated Mystery Books is this captivating read.

Shahin is a young man hailing from rural Bangladesh whose life takes a tragic turn when he becomes one of the countless illegal immigrants seeking refuge and opportunity in the United States. His journey begins innocently enough, traveling with a theatre company to perform for Bengali associations across American cities. However, as always, fate comes into play, and he decides to stay back, falling into the world of those who live in the shadows, evading law enforcement.

He begins working in a restaurant that employs illegal migrants due to their affordability, his sole purpose being to amass enough funds to support his aging parents back in Bangladesh, who harbor dreams of restoring their crumbling home. The story highlights the harsh realities faced by people like Shahin, whose dreams are crushed and their existence is rendered anonymous.

He eventually manages to secure a green card, giving him a chance to revisit his homeland. However, the homecoming is not as idyllic as he’d hoped for, as Shahin becomes “another outsider,” forever changed by his experiences in the land of dreams. The story is a meditation on the universal themes of identity and longing, using the struggles of many immigrants as a guide.

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Sakina’s Kiss

Title: Sakina’s Kiss

Author: Written by Vivek Shanbhag, translated by Srinath Perur

Publisher: Vintage Books

Price: 389

Pages: 194


Second on the list of Translated Mystery Books is this interesting read.

When two mysterious young men arrive at Venkat’s doorstep, a simple, middle-class man living a quiet existence, his life spirals into chaos. The men claim to have some business with Venkat’s daughter Rekha, but this seemingly harmless encounter leads to a mad frenzy of events.

As Venkat struggles with this intrusion into his life, two parallel narratives unravel. It traces the threads of betrayal and disappearance from the past, hinting at a connection to the present turmoil.

The novel’s temporal structure, set over four sleep-deprived days, mirrors Venkat’s unraveling world, as he not only loses control over the narrative but also witnesses the disintegration of his family bonds. A delicious and thrilling interplay of time, memory, and the consequences of our past is concocted by Shanbag’s writing as he looks at India’s changing social and political landscape.

He comments on the old biases and societal rigidities that still rule society, challenging traditional structures and forcing us to re-evaluate our prejudices and preconceptions.

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The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction

Title: The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction

Author: Selected and translated by Pritham K. Chakravarthy

Publisher: Blaft Publications Limited

Price: 553

Pages: 400


Third on the list of Translated Mystery Books is this brilliant read.

The best of the dynamic and electric world of Tamil pulp fiction is collected here in this anthology. A selection of 17 stories that span across genres, from romance to detective fiction, you’re promised a rollercoaster ride through murderous robots, mad scientists, sharpened detectives, goddesses looking for revenge, and much more.

The book includes the flashy covers of the original novels and stories, which helps in replicating the sentiments and trends of the era. Most of these stories have been translated for the first time here, and if you’re someone who occasionally likes a sip of non-stop frenzy in your reading adventures, this collection won’t disappoint.

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Picture Imperfect and Other Mysteries

Title: Picture Imperfect and Other Mysteries

Author: Written by Saradindu Bandyopadhyay, translated by Sreejata Guha

Publisher: Penguin Books

Price: 273

Pages: 264


Next on the list of Translated Mystery Books is this interesting read.

Detectives, there are many, fictional ones even more so, but only a few get to leave their name in the vestiges of history and literature. Byomkesh Bakshi is undoubtedly one of them. In these stories, Byomkesh and his friend Ajit return against the backdrop of Calcutta in British India. Outside of enjoying the mysteries in these stories, Saradindu’s writing whisks you away to pre-independence India with all its colors and flavors.

Whether you’re a fan of mystery or a lover of historical fiction, you must not miss this. From roadside murders and old nemeses to organized crime rings and complicated puzzles, this collection has it all. Fans of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot would love these stories with all the added Indian contexts.

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Yellow Lights of Death

Title: Yellow Lights of Death

Author: Written by Benyamin, translated by Sajeev Kumarapuram

Publisher: Penguin

Price: 282

Pages: 394


Next on the list of Translated Mystery Books is this interesting read.

Christy Andrapper and Jesintha are enjoying their time by a seaside cafe when they witness a grueling murder. The victim is Senthil, Christy’s former classmate, which prompts him to go behind the scenes and investigate the murder. But what do you do when all avenues lead nowhere?

When the police deny any crime, and the hospital states it was a heart attack and not a case of homicide? This novel is more than another crime thriller, for it investigates the nuances of power and deception. Benjayim has been one of the biggest writers in Malayalam literature in the last few years, and this novel is yet another example of why so.

Christy is convinced of being involved in a conspiracy, and it might have to do with Senthil’s affluent and influential family. There are sometimes too many secrets that hide just beneath the surface of your existence, and this novel is about those secrets and the various power structures that surround us. With its many twists and turns, the story keeps you guessing till the very end.

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Francis Itty Cora

Title: Francis Itty Cora

Author: Written by T. D. Ramakrishnan, translated by Priya K. Nair

Publisher: Three Rivers Publishers

Price: 220

Pages: 285


Next on the list of Translated Mystery Books is this interesting read.

The novel is set around a larger-than-life figure, Francis Itty Cora, a pepper merchant from 15th-century Kerala. A founder of a secret cult and a major player in the Italian Renaissance, his legacy is a combination of reality and fiction. With a Christian background, the novel tries to explore an alternative past of what happened in Malabar’s Nazrani community.

There are several historical characters and incidents, both from the distant and not-so-distant past, intermixed with the narrative that helps create a convincing and compelling story. From the research behind the story here to the many themes it probes into, the novel creates an immersive reading experience for you that mesmerizes you.

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The Adventures of Kakababu

Title: The Adventures of Kakababu

Author: Written by Sunil Gangopadhyay, translated by Rimi

Publisher: Harper Children's

Price: 309

Pages: 288


Raja Roychowdhury, aka Kakababu, has a talent for solving old and unsolved mysteries from around the world. A retired director from the Archaeological Survey of India, he’s an adventurous soul who keeps seeking new journeys and cases.

Despite his amputated leg, he keeps embarking on one adventure after another. In these stories, there’s a child-like innocence and a never-ending reservoir of curiosity as these characters, Kakababu and his nephew Shontu, travel from Afghanistan to Kashmir and solve mysteries. 

As you follow Kakababu through his exploits, you can sense the thrill of the unknown and the excitement of discovering a new place each time. This collection is a must-read for those who crave excitement, mystery, and the thrill of the unknown. The characters add eccentricity to the stories and make them more endearing and thrilling.

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The Colaba Conspiracy

Title: The Colaba Conspiracy

Author: Written by Surender Mohan Pathak

Publisher: HarperCollins India

Price: 298

Pages: 432


Next on the list of Translated Mystery Books is this interesting read.

One of the most popular authors in Hindi pulp fiction and known for his Jeet Singh series in particular, Surender Mohan Pathak has written several bestselling thrillers and mysteries. The first-ever translation of a Jeet Singh mystery,

The Colaba Conspiracy contains a network of deception and suspense. When the mysterious Parsumal Changulani is murdered, his stepchildren accuse her of conspiring with her ex-lover to kill their father.

Jeet Singh is a famed lockpicker and the ex-lover of Sushmita, the widow of Changulani, and it now falls upon him to solve this mystery and placate Sushmita of any charges. It’s a compelling whodunit, made even more so through the backdrop of Mumbai, with its bustling streets and pulsating energy. If you enjoy thriller books with lots of drama and iconic characters, this would be a great next pick for you.

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Reliving Sujatha: His Best Stories in English

Title: Reliving Sujatha: His Best Stories in English

Author: Written by Sujatha, translated by Vimala Balakrishnan

Publisher: Vitasta Publishing Pvt. Ltd.

Price: 285

Pages: 242


Next on the list of Translated Mystery Books is this interesting read.

Sujatha Rangarajan is one of the most prominent authors to have written in Tamil. Through this collection, we get to read some of his best works that have been translated into English.

There’s the novella Hey Raja Stop that features the famous lawyer duo of Ganesha and Vasanth with them trying to solve a case of mind control and manipulation. In one story, a young boy witnesses the consequences of nuclear warfare and in another, we observe the common man’s aversion to getting involved with accidents to avoid involvement with the police system.

One story looks at the apathy and heartlessness with which the healthcare system often operates and another sees a man planning to murder his friend.

With unique premises, Sujatha’s stories have a way of drawing you in and keeping you turning one page after another. Not just that, his stories often comment on our society and world at large, expressing the sentiments of the common masses through his writing.

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Jugari Cross

Title: Jugari Cross

Author: Written by K. P. Poornachandra Tejasvi, translated by Ravi Hanj

Publisher: Createspace Independent Pub

Price: 1231

Pages: 226


Next on the list of Translated Mystery Books is this interesting read.

The novel takes place in one day and revolves around an ordinary farming couple. They intend to sell their farm produce that day for a good price, but the turn of events leads to a place where they’re chased by killers. It primarily seeks to depict the cruelty with which man treats nature and how that only leads to our destruction. The messages here are still relevant today, from ecological conservation to its exploration of societal dynamics and philosophical themes. 

Despite being a thriller, the story is filled with Tejasvi’s trademark humor and has a very colloquial style that makes for a breezy reading experience. Even though you have a sense of what’s coming while the characters do not, it doesn’t take away anything from the novel. A novel by one of the most prominent writers in Kannada literature, Jugari Cross is evasive in its simplicity yet keeps you hooked till the very end.

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Title: Heat

Author: Written by Poomani, translated by N. Kalyan Raman

Publisher: Juggernaut

Price: 370

Pages: 264


Next on the list of Translated Mystery Books is this interesting read.

The weight of our actions often comes back to haunt us, no matter how much we try to run from it. Heat by Poomani is a story of actions, consequences, and circumstances that leave their permanent mark on us. Set in rural Tamil Nadu, the novel follows a 15-year-old, Chidambaram, who kills a powerful landowner for killing his elder brother. But actions have consequences, and Chidambaram and his father run away to hills and forests in an uncertain and dangerous world to escape their fate. A nuanced depiction of poverty and the realities of living as a fugitive, the novel is as heartbreaking as it is gripping. 

The title itself can be seen as a metaphor for the emotional heat the characters face outside of the scorching heat of the landscape itself. You also see the many colours and realities of rural Tamil Nadu, from its customs and traditions to the many power structures that exist. Despite all the suffering and pain in this story, it’s a celebration of human resilience and the beauty of familial bonds.

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The Adventures of Feluda: Incident on the Kalka Mall

Title: The Adventures of Feluda: Incident on the Kalka Mall

Author: Written by Satyajit Ray, translated by Gopa Majumdar

Publisher: Penguin India

Price: 128

Pages: 104


Next on the list of Translated Mystery Books is this interesting read.

The character of Feluda can safely be regarded as the most recognized amateur detective in all of Indian literature. This book is another delightful addition to the iconic series featuring the character wherein Feluda, along with Topshe and Jatayu, finds himself trapped in a complex case. It all starts when a rich man seeks Feluda’s help in recovering his blue briefcase, which has been accidentally swapped with another passenger’s during a journey on the Kalka Mail.

But as Feluda goes deeper into the case, it keeps getting messier and more complicated. The story takes us through the slopes of Shimla as Ray brings the valley to life with his trademark prose, both accessible and endearing. With cleverly hidden clues and riddles, the story moves forward and is a delight for fans of the mystery genre and Satyajit Ray.

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Amritesh Mukherjee

Amritesh Mukherjee

Amritesh doesn't know what to do with his life, so he writes. He also doesn't know what to write, so he reads. Gift him a book if you chance upon him and he'll love you forever.

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