Suparna Chatterjee is the author of The All Bengali Crime Detectives.
Tender Leaves caught up with her and asked her a few questions. Read till the end of the interview to see what detective tales she recommends.
Q: Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
A: I was born and brought up in Kolkata, though in the past ten years I have had the opportunity to live in the United States, France and Singapore before finally moving back to India again. Apart from writing, I enjoy traveling, music, art and meditation. I am a volunteer with the Art of Living Foundation. You will find more about me and my work on my blog.
Q: Can you tell us about your book, The All Bengali Crime Detectives. How did the idea come up?
A: I wanted to write a story about life in Kolkata, and write it in a way that it would make the city and her people seem familiar even to those who have never been there. I have lived in Kolkata for the first 24 years of my life, so I have had the privilege of experiencing the city’s culture firsthand. But the uniqueness and the sheer charm of it became apparent once I started living abroad. In many ways this book was an expression of the bottled-up nostalgia. I have always been a big fan of detective novels, and I thought that giving a crime angle would make the story even more interesting.
Q: What aspects of your book are new and unexpected for the mystery-loving reader?
A: The protagonists are not the smart, savvy, agile, confident detectives that
The All Bengali Crime Detectives
one has come to expect in this genre. My detectives are not “professionals”. They are regular, every day people – endearing, vulnerable, excitable, and full of failings that make one human. Besides, unlike a classical detective story, in this book there are several other sub-plots brewing simultaneously, which are all equally important and which add up to give the readers a flavour of life in Kolkata.
Q: You mentioned in other interviews that life doesn’t tie things up, so you’ve deliberately left some story threads open in your book. Do you think this takes away from the murder mystery format, where the tendency is to tie everything up neatly?
A: The crime, and its subsequent investigation, does reach a logical end. Otherwise, it would make for a disappointing detective story! But some of the other threads have been left untied, as I feel that is a true reflection of life. Not everything always reaches a “logical” end in the same time frame. Life is a happening, and every event, situation, phase is complete in itself.
It’s like, you take a seed, and that seed is perfect, total, complete in itself. But that doesn’t mean it will not sprout and grow. It will become a sapling, which is also complete and perfect in itself. But again, it will grow in to a tree.
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
Q: Who are your idols in the genre? What other genres of writing do you enjoy reading?
A: Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie, Satyajit Ray. I also enjoy the works of Amitav Ghosh, Jhumpa Lahiri, Alexander McCall Smith, P.G. Wodehouse, as well as fantasy books like the Harry Potter or the Blart series.
Q: Do you prefer to buy books, or borrow them? Ever lost a book because a friend didn’t give it back? 🙂
A: Both. Many times.
Could you recommend a must-read list of detective fiction? Say, your top 6 favourites?
Hercule Poirot’s genius shines through in this ‘searching for a needle in a haystack’ murder mystery.
Cat among the Pigeons
I had read three-fourths of the book, the murders were over and the famous Hercule Poirot hadn’t even entered the story! It gave an interesting perspective. As a reader you were a witness to everything that had happened, which the detective had to piece together and make sense of in hindsight.
The Boy Who Didn't Want to Save the World
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Again a very interesting perspective!
The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series
Alexandre McCall Smith
The charming stories of Botswana, and in particular of the ‘traditionally built’ Precious Ramotswe, as she decides to take up the challenge of being the only lady detective in the country.
The boy who did not want to save the world (Blart series)
Though not a detective series, I really enjoyed these books for the fast paced action and humour.