One of the things I love most about international mysteries is the way they can breathe new life into the characters and tropes we’re already familiar with. We’ve all read mystery novels with a grizzled detective who believes the world is working against them. But what about a mystery novel in which the investigator is a female attorney struggling against the cultural expectations of her Indian city? Or a mystery involving a wealthy Maharajah who likes to play detective? Or a mystery where the Inspector is aided by a baby elephant?
Now that your interest is sufficiently piqued (because seriously, who wouldn’t want to read about a mystery-solving baby elephant?), check out this list of mystery novels featuring Indian detectives. (I’ll apologize to your TBR later.)
The Grand Raj Palace Hotel has stood as a resort for the world's elite citizens for over one hundred years, so the last thing the hotel needs is a scandal. But alas, a scandal occurs when an American billionaire is found dead in the hotel from an apparent suicide. Problem is, not everyone is convinced that the man's death is a suicide, and so Inspector Chopra and his sidekick, the baby elephant Ganesha, are called in. And what Inspector Chopra quickly realizes is that there were a lot of people at the Grand Raj Palace that wanted this billionaire dead.
Murder at the Grand Raj Palace is the fourth book in Vaseem Khan's charming and thoughtful Baby Ganesh Agency series, so if you're intrigued, make sure to check out the other three books in the series: The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown, and The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star.
The year is 1921 and Perveen Mistry has become one of the first female lawyers in India after joining her father's law firm. One of her first assignments involves handling the will of a wealthy Muslim mill owner, who has left three widows behind. But Perveen is suspicious when she realizes that all three of the widows have signed over their inheritance to a charity, ultimately leaving them with nothing to live on. Her suspicions increase when tensions at the women's home lead to murder. How can Perveen ensure that no one else comes to harm? Perveen is an intelligent, sympathetic character, and her dedication to women's rights transforms this historical mystery into a strong feminist story.
Arjun Raj Gaind
In the state of Rajpore, the British Resident, Major William Russell, is found dead in his bedroom the morning after the New Year's Ball. The Maharaja of Rajpore, Sikander Singh, fancies himself a detective among the likes of Sherlock Holmes and Auguste Dupin, so when he learns of the news, he rushes to investigate the scene of the crime. But as the Maharaja sifts through clues to determine the true cause of the Major's death, the British dispatch their own investigator in an attempt to shut Sikander down. Can Sikander solve the mystery for the British police end his investigation for good?
In Calcutta, a senior British official has been murdered and the rising political dissent points to a terrorist group that threatens the stability of the British Raj. Captain Sam Wyndham, Inspector Digby, and Sergeant Banerjee, one of the few Indian recruits on the police force, embark on an investigation that will take them from the gatherings of wealthy British traders to the city's opium dens. If you're a fan of thought-provoking mysteries with complicated characters, make sure to give this series a try.
Agent Santosh Wagh has been put in charge of the newly opened Mumbai branch of Private, the world's most elite detective agency, and his first case as head investigator has him on the hunt for an elusive serial killer who targets seemingly unconnected women and leaves bizarre objects at the crime scenes. And as the team races to find a lead before the next woman is killed, something inside the agency threatens to destroy it from within. Can Agent Wagh confront the demons of his past and hunt down the killer? (And if you enjoy this story, you can also check out the next part of Santosh Wagh's story in Count to Ten.)
Katie McLain is a public librarian in Illinois where she suggests books for a living. She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her fiancé and her matching black cats. Katie is a contributing editor for Book Riot and a co-host on the Read or Dead mystery podcast. Find her on Twitter @kt_librarylady.