• Sambhavi Sinha

7 Bestselling Mystery Novels by Indian Writers

Paperback mystery novels have always been the go-to option for those lazy rainy days, where all the world is grey and all you want to do is curl up on your sofa with chai, a blanket, and a good book. In honour of the monsoons being just around the corner, we’ve put together a list to help you get started. Ranging from funny to gritty, there’s something for every kind of taste.

The special thing about this list though, is that all the authors are Indian; the stories are set in India, and have the kind of unique quirks – turns of phrase, little details, that only Indians can fully appreciate. Each novel brings something that is, well, novel, particularly in the context of our honestly very western-centric society. But the insidious westernisation and cultural deadening that goes hand in hand with globalization is a conversation for another day; for now, let’s direct our inner bookworms a little closer to home, and find out what we’ve been missing out on.


So here's is our list of 7 mystery novels that you must read:


1. Lashkar - Into the Heart of Terror (2008)

MUKUL DEVA

If you were a fan of ‘Homeland’, this is the book for you. The author is a bona-fide veteran of the Indian military, bringing a visceral realism and an intimate knowledge of terrorism to the story – and the larger structures behind it. A patriotic tilt to be sure, but not overbearingly so, exploring the greys in the political conflict all Indians and Pakistanis know so well. Funnily enough, the narrative the author builds can be aligned with certain events in recent Indian history – before they ever happened.

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A riveting action thriller that moves from Delhi to the rugged mountains of LOC in Kashmir, to Lahore, Karachi and Multan, Lashkar is a gripping tale of terror and counter-terror, and terrible fall-out of the games the government plays.

Iqbal, a small-town boy from Lucknow, is lured across the Indian border into Pakistan for training as a jihadi by one of the most dreaded terrorist organizations in the world. Months later, on 29th October 2005, on the eve of Diwali and Eid, a series of bomb blasts unleash death on the streets of Delhi. The blasts are a continuation of the proxy war raged between Pakistan's military and intelligence in India. The magnitude of destruction outrages the normally docile Indian public and its demand for justice rocks Indian Government into action.

Buy it on amazon HERE


2. Sacred Games (2006)

Vikram Chandra

You’ve probably heard of the Netflix series of the same name, and yes, this is the book that inspired it all. ‘Sacred Games’ starts as an exploration of Mumbai’s criminal underbelly, but quicky blows up to a much larger scale. The plot of the books is a little different from the series, but goes into much more detail about the characters and setting; one reviewer even described it as ‘a love story with the city of Mumbai’.

Since season three of the Netflix series has yet to be announced, you can find out how the story proceeds by reading the book.

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Sartaj, one of the very few Sikhs on the Mumbai police force, is used to being identified by his turban, beard and the sharp cut of his trousers. But "the silky Sikh" is now past forty, his marriage is over and his career prospects are on the slide. When Sartaj gets an anonymous tip-off as to the secret hide-out of the legendary boss of G-Company, he's determined that he'll be the one to collect the prize.

Vikram Chandra's novel draws the reader deep into the life of Inspector Sartaj Singh—and into the criminal underworld of Ganesh Gaitonde, the most wanted gangster in India. It is a story of friendship and betrayal, of terrible violence, of an astonishing modern city and its dark side.

Buy it on amazon HERE


3. In the Name of God (2017)

RAVI SUBRAMANIAN

‘In the Name of God’ contrasts the ostensible purity of religion with the profanity of murder, and the plot gets murkier and murkier as it goes on. It combines the kind of faith associated with religion, and the veritable landmine that is the questioning of it. If Dan Brown made you curious about Christianity and the internal politics of the church, this is your chance to explore those vibes a more familiar setting. Uniquely relevant and thought provoking in our current religious climate, while also being simply an interesting and engaging read.

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What happens when you have to choose between faith and logic?

Temples are places of worship, oceans of tranquility, or so everyone thinks, till a series of murders threatens to destroy the carefully cultivated reputation of the royal family of Thiruvanathapuram. And when fingers point towards the opening of the hitherto sealed vaults at the Padmanabha Swamy Temple that is under the control of the royals, all hell breaks loose. Meanwhile, a heist at the Wafi Mall in Dubai leads investigators to uncover a massive racket in the smuggling of antiques from the ruins of temples in south India. Things only get murkier when multiple blasts in Mumbai shake the very foundations of the diamond trade in the country.

Is there a connection between these incidents? Who is behind the murders? Follow Kabir Khan, Additional Director, CBI, as he breezes through a complex maze of fact and fiction, faith and deceit, religion and commerce to unravel the mystery and unmask the killers with only minutes left at his disposal.

Buy it on amazon HERE


4. The Vault of Vishnu (2020)

ASHWIN SANGHI

Ashwin Sanghi has a reputation for writing thrillers that combine history, science and mythology, and the Vault of Vishnu does not disappoint. This is the kind of book that would have made history and civics fun in high-school, and it all happens right here at home. Or, well, home and home-adjacent, but you’ll have to read the book to know more about that.

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A Pallava prince travels to Cambodia to be crowned king, carrying with him secrets that will be the cause of great wars many centuries later.

A Buddhist monk in ancient China treks south to India, searching for the missing pieces of a puzzle that could make his emperor all-powerful. A Neolithic tribe fights to preserve their sacred knowledge, oblivious to the war drums on the Indo-China border. Meanwhile, far away in the temple town of Kanchipuram, a reclusive scientist deciphers ancient texts even as a team of secret agents shadows his every move. Caught in the storm is a young investigator with a complex past of her own, who must race against time to maintain the balance of power in the new world.

Buy it on amazon HERE


5. Based on Lies (2021)

Debarshi Kanjilal

This book made it on the list for its unique narrative style, but also – how often have you read a book where the main character is the villain? Be warned though; this one gets quite disturbing. If you’re not a hardened reader of phycological thrillers, you may want to let it pass. The protagonist is an unhinged bad guy (or is he??) so vivid details of his crimes are to be expected. That being said, if you’re the type who appreciates more avant-garde works, this is one wild ride you don’t want to miss.

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A psychopath. An infidel. A child abuser. A murderer. A lover. An insomniac. A disturbed man. A victim of his own mind. Each one of these phrases can aptly describe Anurag Sanyal. This is Anurag's story. He has confessed it all to his diary. He has described every crime in vivid, nauseating detail. And each account is more surreal, more messed up than the last. There is only one problem - everything he narrates is based on lies. And thus, we begin the eternal search for truth.

Buy it on amazon HERE

6. The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra (2015)

Vaseem Khan

For a novel with a hilarious premise, this novel is deceptively real in its portrayal of systemic corruption. And, on a lighter note, its vibrant descriptions of Mumbai and Mumbaikars. It’s the kind of fun you don’t often find in mystery books or thrillers, while still being respectful and thoughtful towards the subjects it touches on. Subjects which are, incidentally, very relevant to the modern Indian audience.

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Mumbai, murder and a baby elephant combine in a charming, joyful mystery for fans of Alexander McCall Smith and Harold Fry. On the day he retires, Inspector Ashwin Chopra inherits two unexpected mysteries. The first is the case of a drowned boy, whose suspicious death no one seems to want solved. And the second is a baby elephant. As his search for clues takes him across the teeming city of Mumbai, from its grand high rises to its sprawling slums and deep into its murky underworld, Chopra begins to suspect that there may be a great deal more to both his last case and his new ward than he thought. And he soon learns that when the going gets tough, a determined elephant may be exactly what an honest man needs...

Buy it on amazon HERE


7. Dead Meat (2015)

Ankush Saikia

A twisty, twisted tale that takes you through Delhi’s criminal underbelly, this novel has all the makings of a future screenplay. It’s set in Delhi - but it’s not just a murder mystery that happens to be set in Delhi; the setting is integral to the case, making it even more intriguing and immersive. As one reviewer said, it captures each and every minute detail of the city; from that old Delhi smell, to the humidity, to the posh/pleb crowd dynamic, bringing the city alive for you to experience from the comfort of your sofa.

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A body recovered from a tandoor oven,

A young accountant missing with a suitcase full of cash,

A city in the heady grip of T20 fever,

Private eye Arjun Arora works the streets of Delhi dealing with the shady underbelly of the capital city. Hired to track down a missing person, Arjun stumbles upon a gruesome murder where the suspects seem to be linked to something larger and more sinister.

Part noir thriller and part detective story, Dead Meat introduces us to an unforgettable character—Arjun Arora, a man with a bad marriage, a drinking habit, and a troubled past—who takes us on a dark and dangerous journey through the grime of today’s urban India.


Buy it on amazon HERE


So, what do you think? Are you in for some thrills this monsoon? If you have any recommendations for books we haven't covered, feel free to add them in the comments below!


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Written by Sambhavi Sinha,

Content Writer, Skyshot Media.

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