HT Image
HT Image

A bloody business

On the 75th anniversary of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, what is the future of murder mysteries? Paramita Ghosh writes.
By Paramita Ghosh | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 10, 2009 11:07 PM IST

Twelve people board a train — it’s a journey. One of them dies — it’s a plot. The murder weapon is a knife. And the murderer is a right-handed person… and a left-handed person. The investigator is Hercule Poirot. The case is solved in Murder on the Orient Express, the Agatha Christie classic that celebrates its diamond jubilee this month.

Look around to see who’s celebrating. But trust no one. HarperCollins will promote her series under the banner ‘Chills and Thrills’. The motive: Christie has sold over 2 billion books and 3,000 copies of each of the 89 titles sell year after year n India alone, says PM Sukumar, HarperCollins India CEO. Her books were clean, non-violent mysteries where Miss Marple sleuthed while knitting her sweaters and Poirot, while enjoying creme de menthe.

But the rumour is that Eoin Colfer’s enfant terrible Artemis Fowl and Alexander McCall Smith’s Precious Ramotswe, the only female detective in Botswana, are emerging strong favourites.

Author Kalpana Swaminathan, whose Aunt Lalli (Cryptic Death and other stories), one strongly suspects, is Miss Marple-inspired, murders the theory. “Ramotswe is a typical European construct of an interesting but alien culture like Inspector Ghote. Like all of Kipling’s Indians, she is

a pet. And pets, you know, are perennially popular,” she says.

A twist in the tale: the murder mystery, says a source, died at the hand of Raymond Chandler, one of its best-known exponents. A single essay, ‘The Gentle Art of Murder’, he insists “did it in”. “Fundamentally, it’s the same careful grouping of suspects,” Chandler wrote in the essay. “The same utterly incomprehensible trick of how somebody stabbed Mrs Pottington Postlethwaite III with the solid platinum poniard in the presence of 15 ill-assorted guests and the good grey inspector arriving in a dogcart instead of a streamlined sedan with sirens screaming.”

Well, there’s no smoke without fire. Ajit Singh of Delhi bookstore Fact

& Fiction claims: “People aren’t seeing crime thrillers as a genre anymore.” Christie, he says, is more than a genre; it’s read for itself.

So what’s the verdict? Is the art of murder dead? Difficult to say, but its queen, who died in bed 33 years ago almost to the week, is still very much in the ring.

paramitaghosh@hindustantimes.com

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
The critics circle announced five nominees in each of six competitive categories Sunday, and seven finalists for an award for best first book.(Wikimedia Commons )
The critics circle announced five nominees in each of six competitive categories Sunday, and seven finalists for an award for best first book.(Wikimedia Commons )

Wilkerson's 'Caste' among finalists for book critics awards

AP, New York
PUBLISHED ON JAN 25, 2021 11:27 AM IST
Isabel Wilkerson's “Caste,” an acclaimed biography of Malcolm X and fiction by Martin Amis and the late Randall Kenan are among this year's finalists for National Book Critics Circle prizes.
Close
"India 2030: The Rise of a Rajasic Nation" is a collection of essays by the likes of Bibek Debroy, Vikram Sood, Raghunath Anant Mashelkar, Ram Madhav and David Frawley, among others.(Amazon)
"India 2030: The Rise of a Rajasic Nation" is a collection of essays by the likes of Bibek Debroy, Vikram Sood, Raghunath Anant Mashelkar, Ram Madhav and David Frawley, among others.(Amazon)

Book tells what rise of India in the 2020s looks like

PTI, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 23, 2021 06:51 PM IST
A new book captures the many aspects of a future that will culminate in India becoming the world's third-largest economy and a regional power before the decade gets over.
Close
Anindita Ghose (Vijay Prabakaran)
Anindita Ghose (Vijay Prabakaran)

Interview: Anindita Ghose on her debut novel, The Illuminated

By Simar Bhasin
UPDATED ON JAN 22, 2021 07:49 PM IST
The former editor of Mint Lounge talks about her forthcoming novel, about being irritated by the impulses of journalism in the Twitter era, and about what’s ahead for her in 2021
Close
Shamsur Rahman Faruqi in a photograph dated October 25, 2018. (Amal KS/HT PHOTO)
Shamsur Rahman Faruqi in a photograph dated October 25, 2018. (Amal KS/HT PHOTO)

Essay: Shamsur Rahman Faruqi - drawing out the colossus

By Mahmood Farooqui
UPDATED ON JAN 22, 2021 04:19 PM IST
In this excerpt from a forthcoming valedictory essay, SR Faruqi’s nephew writes about the Urdu poet, critic, and scholar’s last days
Close
The book throws light on the sensory development of children and the process by which toddlers learn to speak.(Unsplash)
The book throws light on the sensory development of children and the process by which toddlers learn to speak.(Unsplash)

Book 'Speak-A-Boo', documentary 'Talk To Your Child' released by Dr. Neeraj Suri

ANI, Ahmedabad (gujarat) [india]
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 03:32 PM IST
Noted authors, journalists and behavioral specialists came together to interact with the public and encourage them to talk to their children during the launch of the book Speak-A-Boo by Dr Neeraj Suri.
Close
Gulzar’s mammoth project, A Poem A Day, an anthology that contains the best names in Indian poetry across languages, is rich and diverse. (Prabha S Roy/HT)
Gulzar’s mammoth project, A Poem A Day, an anthology that contains the best names in Indian poetry across languages, is rich and diverse. (Prabha S Roy/HT)

Essay: Poetry for every day of the year, for all seasons

By Sudeep Sen
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 02:16 PM IST
Recent anthologies that stand out include one that’s a feat of sustained translation and another that features poetry on the Covid crisis from across the world
Close
Horses, hills, and how we make connections with each other - all that on this week’s list of interesting reads. (HT Team)
Horses, hills, and how we make connections with each other - all that on this week’s list of interesting reads. (HT Team)

HT Picks: the most interesting books of the week

By HT Team
UPDATED ON JAN 22, 2021 01:49 PM IST
Books on the history of horses in India, cuisine from the hills, and the networks that bind us feature on this week’s reading list
Close
A view of the Sanjay Van forest reserve, in New Delhi, that is part of the south central area of the greater Delhi Ridge. (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)
A view of the Sanjay Van forest reserve, in New Delhi, that is part of the south central area of the greater Delhi Ridge. (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)

Review: Fractured Forest, Quartzite City by Thomas Crowley

By Sudhirendar Sharma
UPDATED ON JAN 21, 2021 04:02 PM IST
Presenting Delhi’s Ridge, that is spread over 80 square km of reserved forest, as a living entity
Close
Another anticipated book of the year -- "Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth" by Nigerian legend Wole Soyinka, his first novel in 48 years -- will be published in September by Bloomsbury.(Unsplash)
Another anticipated book of the year -- "Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth" by Nigerian legend Wole Soyinka, his first novel in 48 years -- will be published in September by Bloomsbury.(Unsplash)

2021 book list: Books lovers in for a treat with these new novels

PTI, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 21, 2021 03:07 PM IST
Novels by Orhan Pamuk, Kazuo Ishiguro and Jhumpa Lahiri, a collection by Salman Rushdie and memoirs of Ravi Shastri, Girish Karnad and Priyanka Chopra are some of the highlights of 2021 that book lovers can look forward to.
Close
HarperCollins Publishers India is thrilled to announce a new and definitive biography of Kamala Harris by renowned journalist and writer Chidanand Rajghatta.(ANI)
HarperCollins Publishers India is thrilled to announce a new and definitive biography of Kamala Harris by renowned journalist and writer Chidanand Rajghatta.(ANI)

HarperCollins Publishers India announces 'Kamala Harris: Phenomenal Woman'

ANI
PUBLISHED ON JAN 21, 2021 02:10 PM IST
HarperCollins Publishers India is thrilled to announce a new and definitive biography of Kamala Harris - who sworn today in as the Vice President of the United States of America - by renowned journalist and writer Chidanand Rajghatta.
Close
Lilly Singh(Instagram)
Lilly Singh(Instagram)

Lilly Singh to be guest at virtual book tour of Priyanka Chopra's memoir

ANI
PUBLISHED ON JAN 20, 2021 09:36 PM IST
Ahead of the release of her 'Unfinished,' actor-singer Priyanka Chopra Jonas on Tuesday announced the first four dates of the virtual book tour of her memoir.
Close
Dorah Sitole(Instagram)
Dorah Sitole(Instagram)

South Africa's trailblazing Black food writer Dorah Sitole dies of virus

AP
UPDATED ON JAN 19, 2021 02:40 PM IST
South Africa's trailblazing Black food writer Dorah Sitole's latest cookbook was widely hailed in December as a moving chronicle of her journey from humble township cook to famous, well-traveled author.
Close
Representational image. (Unsplash)
Representational image. (Unsplash)

Students tell story of Gurgaon through lives of 19 people

PTI, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 17, 2021 01:11 PM IST
Students tell story of Gurgaon through lives of 19 people
Close
Audrey Truschke and her book, The Language of History: Sanskrit Narratives of Muslim Pasts(Instagram/Amazon)
Audrey Truschke and her book, The Language of History: Sanskrit Narratives of Muslim Pasts(Instagram/Amazon)

Audrey Truschke's new book to analyse Sanskrit texts of Indo-Muslim history

PTI
PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 07:09 PM IST
The book, "The Language of History: Sanskrit Narratives of Muslim Pasts", seeks to collect, analyse, and theorize Sanskrit histories of Muslim-led and, later, as Muslims became an integral part of Indian cultural and political worlds, Indo-Muslim rule as a body of historical materials.
Close
Myth, relations between India and China, and reflections on the identity of an ethnic group feature on this week’s list of good reads.(HT Team)
Myth, relations between India and China, and reflections on the identity of an ethnic group feature on this week’s list of good reads.(HT Team)

HT Picks: The most interesting books of the week

By hindustantimes.com
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 06:46 PM IST
This week’s list of compelling reads includes a collection of myth and folklore, an account of relations between India and China, and an anthology that reflects on the identity of an ethnic group displaced by Partition.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP