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A lot of kids have grown up on crime thrillers or mystery novels written for kids and teens like Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Enid Blyton’s popular series Famous Five and Secret Seven and scores of other books. Tons of Indian kids have also been hooked by these writers and their young detectives. There are many Indian writers also who write detective stories for children as well yet they don’t seem to be very popular as compared to the ones written by the foreign writers. Not many know that one of India’s best film maker, Satyajit Ray, also penned a number of detective stories and created one of his own sleuths, the famous Feluda who would go around solving mysteries with his nephew Tapesh and later on Lalmohan Ganguli.
Satyajit Ray began writing these stories for the Bengali children’s magazine, Sandesh. The first story was titled Danger In Darjeeling and was published in 1965. Thereafter, there was no looking back. Feluda became very popular with its young Bengali readers and Ray wrote at least one story every year. In all, 35 Feluda stories were published from 1965-1996.
Enough about facts, now down to the review. The Penguin Publications came out in 2004 with a definitive two volume edition, The Complete Adventures of Feluda which contains all the stories. So whether you were hooked on to these stories as a kid and want to relive them now or simply love detective stories, these volumes are a must have. Translated from Bengali by Gopa Majumdar, they are chronologically arranged and show the progress of Feluda as a detective along with the marked progress in Ray’s writing too. The initial stories are simple and childish but later on the plots become more dangerous, complex and twisted. The characters become more fully etched and we come to learn more about this beloved detective’s personality-that he is a knowledgeable person, a voracious reader and a very talented man.
The detective’s real name is Pradosh C. Mitter and his nickname is Felu. His nephew’s name is Tapesh who Felu lovingly called Topshe. The suffix ‘da’ is used as a mark of respect when addressing an elder brother. The first volume has 16 stories which are very entertaining and exciting. It is a treat for any fan of crime fiction. Ray’s language is simple and lucid and keeping in mind the primary audience for his stories, he kept them clean and with minimal violence. Reading the Feluda stories doesn’t just proffer its readers dollops of thrill and fun but also a tour of India and an insight into the life the Indian people in those decades. In Volume 1 itself, the trio travelled from Jaisalmer to Lucknow, from big cities like Bombay to small places like Gosiapur, from Shimla to Gangtok and many more places. These stories do not just tell a tale of adventure and crime but take the reader on a journey across India.
Narrated by Feluda’s own Watson-Topshe, these stories connected easily with its teenage audience. Ray was a self professed lover of crime fiction and had read all the Sherlock Holmes story. It is therefore no wonder that those stories provided an inspiration to him and became a reference point for the format and style of his own detective stories. We see a little bit of Ray reflected in Feluda’s personality as well. Often his views are similar to those of the great film maker.
These stories are a great read and quite informative as well. They are a wholesome read for everyone.
I heard about the author, Sue Grafton, when I read the book, ‘Chicken Soup For The Writer’s Soul.’ It mentions her story, about how she got her works published which was mainly a collection of mystery fiction of what came to be known as ‘the alphabet series’ as each novel had an alphabet in its title.
When I came across one of the novels, ‘L for Lawless‘, in the college library, I excitedly picked it up hoping to be treated to an excellent thriller. However, my hopes, though not completely dashed, but nonetheless they were subdued. The novel was a bit uninspiring and did not motivate me to read her other novels.
‘L for Lawless‘ stars her usual private investigator, Kinsey Millhone. The novel begins with her narrating how she got involved in this mystery and how she regrets it. She recalls how it all started when a friend, Henry Pitts, asked her to look into late Johnny Lee’s mysterious absence of records in the Army Office when in fact he was a World War 2 fighter pilot. He had recently died and his grandson, Bucky, wanted a decent funeral paid for by the Armed Services. This request seemed harmless, a little bit of snooping around would have easily solved the problem or so Kinsey thought. Each passing day, a new aspect of Johnny’s life was unearthed and she found herself sinking deeper into his mucky past. A couple of break-ins in his house signaled even more mysterious trouble which Ray Rawson, an apparently old friend, helped Kinsey to understand. As she plunged into solving this ‘easy’ problem she found more criminal shadows in both Rawson’s and Lee’s past and unfortunately a brutal killer was set on her trail!
The novel, ‘L for Lawless‘ has great twists and turns, an easy weekend read, does not test the reader’s intelligence, a good time pass.
What didn’t work for me was the countless descriptions. Some of them are essential to move the plot but some just drag the pace. For eg, while Kinsey was in an airport, walking towards the convener belt, a dozen descriptions of what she observes is mentioned but that could be easily avoided as her observations in no way help her solve the case or move forward with it atleast.
I don’t know why, but when I was reading the book, I felt a nagging in my head that I was reading just an older version of Nancy Drew. Don’t get me wrong, it is not kiddish or a rosy book. It has its own set of blood and gore and definite shock and surprises.
The story is good but somehow does not click with me. I feel it is a bit amateurish. There are several other thrillers that are much more engaging and intelligent.
Sidney Sheldon’s books are famed for their super exciting pace. The novel, ‘The Sky Is Falling’ lives upto that fame. Its an awesome thriller which rapidly navigates through the book’s murder mystery.
In ‘The Sky Is Falling’, the protagonist is a famous TV reporter, Dana Evans, who has just come back from her stint on war coverage in Sarajevo. The Winthrop family’s last member, Gary Winthrop is murdered in his home by a couple of burglars. This gruesome act sends shock waves through the world as the whole family had been wiped out in less than a year in several accidents. Dana Evans strongly believes that the deaths of the Winthrop family were not coincidental and believes that they were all murdered. She is determined to find out and begins her investigation. It makes her travel to all possible places like Italy, France, Russia etc. Her mission gets more and more dangerous as she gets closer to the truth. Will she find out the cold-blooded killer or will she get eliminated in the process?
‘The Sky Is Falling’ is a thrilling read, a well written, rapid paced novel. A definite treat for all who love reading thrillers. All the innumerable twists and turns keeps us guessing wildly till the end and shocks us with its unpredictability and surprise!