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‘Crime novels are so intricate’

Infuriating and invigorating Is how Madhumita describes writing a thriller Photo: G.P. Sampath Kumar  

After Calcutta ( The Masala Murder) and Mumbai ( Dead in a Mumbai Minute) crime buster Reema Ray is in Goa. Madhumita Bhattacharyya’s third book in the trilogy, Goa Undercover (Pan Macmillan India) sees Reema involved in a conspiracy of epic proportions, which she solves ably supported by her dishy boss Shayak and old associate Terrence. The 36-year-old Bengaluru-based author speaks of her special Goa, never saying never and the agony and ecstasy of YouTube. Excerpts.

When we last spoke, you said you envisioned the Reema story in three parts. So is Goa Undercover the concluding part of the series?

This is definitely the conclusion of the story arch I had originally planned. I am satisfied that it has been told. The book I am currently working on is not a Reema title. But so much depends on the readers. Should I say that yes, this is definitely the last? Only to eat my hat down the line? If J.K. Rowling can do it, who am I to resist popular demand? (One can only hope, after all!)

From The Masala Murder to Goa Undercover, the tone has got progressively darker... Comment.

The Masala Murder had a small-time-small-crime vibe, and from there, as Reema grows in strength, her universe undergoes a shift. For me, the series has always been about Reema. If she isn’t growing, adapting, changing, fighting, there is no story.

The book has MI 5, drug busts, new age gurus, illegal mining, bomb blasts — the whole nine yards. Did you at any time feel overwhelmed by detail?

There were times I chased plot twists around my head like a dog chasing its tail. And don’t even get me started on continuity. It took a lot of research to ensure I didn’t get things terribly wrong. I don’t like highly implausible twists in fiction, and I try to avoid them, though it is hard in the genre I have chosen!

I also draw a lot of inspiration from real-life events. So I read everything I can find on a certain topic (if you call me the Queen of Google, I will not object), and it finds a way into my work, if only tangentially.

There are different Goas that Reema experiences. Which according to you is your particular Goa that you have dedicated the book to?

My Goa is long walks on a beach that never seems to end, the fewer people in sight the better. A stop for a bottle of beer at a shack, a plate of food to be shared by family and friends, my daughter playing in the sand, a dog begging for table scraps and getting her way. The sunset.

Are you still writing “guerrilla” style like you mentioned last time?

Of course! Though it is better of late. I finished Dead in a Mumbai Minute a month after my daughter was born and now she is in Montessori, so time is once again on my side. Now, if only I could un-invent YouTube…



Are you ready for the crime thriller with a male protagonist?

No. I will be gracious and leave that to the others.

What attracts you about the thriller genre?

Maybe I like puzzles. I start with bits and pieces and then build a narrative around it. The characters come first, then stray episodes. Creating something out of that is both infuriating and invigorating. Crime novels are so intricate, and they explore so many aspects of life, or at least the main ones of love, morality, money. What else, aside from literary fiction, provides such fertile material?

Is Reema a spiritual successor to Nancy Drew or Modesty Blaise?

Are these the only options? I would say neither. She is the product of an over-active imagination fed on a steady diet of plenty of detective fare, from Sherlock Holmes and Poirot, to Remington Steele and Broadchurch.

Is it difficult to write a thriller in first person?

There are times that I regretted my choice, but I was locked in from the first book. And, the regret never lasted long, because Reema was always the centre of this universe, and to see it all through her eyes made it more real.

Is there a Bangalore based book in the works?

There is for sure.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2021 2:26:07 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/%E2%80%98Crime-novels-are-so-intricate%E2%80%99/article14412532.ece

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