Mrs D’Silva’s Detective Instincts and the Shaitan of Calcutta began as a short story. I was on a sailing holiday when one night under the stars of a Mediterranean sky I recalled an incident from my youth in Calcutta. The memory of discovering the body of a young woman by the riverside as a child came to me like a bolt out of nowhere. Did the girl die from natural causes, was it suicide, or were dark deeds afoot? I never told anyone about it; unfortunately, such things were not so unusual in the troubled Calcutta of the 1960s where I grew up having to sidestep bus burnings on my way to school, and face the daily lathi charges by police. A Maoist faction, now referred to as the Naxalites, was rising as a threat to Indian democracy, and the establishment was one of the most corrupt in the country.
Now, more four decades later this hidden memory sparked the beginning of a crime story, and I set about writing the book within the Anglo Indian community in which I grew up. My heroine is widowed school teacher Joan D’Silva, mother of ten-year-old Errol and the finest fish molu cook in 1960s Calcutta. She enjoys the bustling coffee houses of Chowringhee Road, dances at the Grand Hotel and the vibrancy of a new burgeoning India. It is Errol who discovers the dead body of one of Joan’s former students at a picnic on the banks of the Hooghly river, and Joan takes up the mantle of my fictional exploration into how and why she died. Joan’s detective instincts lead her into the dangerous underground world of corruption, growing civil unrest, and the rise of the communist Naxalites, a poignant backdrop that I hope resonates with the recent violent protests enacted by the Naxalites during India’s 2009 elections.
Mrs D’Silva’s Detective Instincts and the Shaitan of Calcutta is published by Parthian. For the first chapter free direct to your mobile phone Text ‘Detective’ to 64888 (standard network charges apply). Visit http://www.gwales.com to buy your copy