Publisher: Rupa & Co
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‘The All Bengali Crime Detectives’ (ABCD) is a breezy and light hearted mystery set in contemporary Kolkata. Author Suparna Chaterjee cites Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie and Satyajit Ray as her inspiration and, reading ABCD, you can clearly see their influence. The story casts four unlikely, but resourceful, characters as sleuths in a classic ‘closed door’ mystery, which they solve more with common sense (and a good stroke of luck) than anything remotely forensic. For good measure, there is a big cast of secondary characters that make for a colourful and entertaining background to the main story. There are also enough hints to suggest that this might be the first in a series of mysteries solved by the intrepid quartet.
After a lifetime spent as a judge in the Kolkata High Court, Akhil Banerjee approaches retirement with apprehension, before finding company in three other retirees. Just as he begins to slip into a life of leisure, interspersed with adda sessions and meetings of the neighbourhood club, the four friends are surprised to receive an invitation from wealthy but reclusive Mr. Agarwal. The get together takes a strange turn , however, when the foursome become witnesses to the theft of a precious diamond owned by Agarwal. But trust keen eyed Akhilbabu to smell a rat, for he and his friends soon find themselves pursuing suspects down crowded streets and ferreting about for clues, as they try to solve the mystery of the missing stone.
Adding to all this excitement is that ensemble cast I mentioned earlier. For starters, there is the ongoing rivalry between neighbourhood clubs vying for the best Durga Puja pandal in the area. Meanwhile, Debdas Guha Roy begins the agonizing process of finding a groom for his daughter Piya, oblivious to the young man who pines for her from a distance. And what could possibly be the reason for all those strange dreams Bibhuti Bose is plagued with?
Chatterjee writes with energy and wit. I especially enjoyed the detail she invests her characters with, from their appearance and their speech quirks to their pet peeves. Even if you are no mystery enthusiast, read ABCD just to find our how the great Puja Pandal frenzy ends.