Last Sunday’s (18 February 2017) The Hindu Literary Review was enveloped in a cloud of mystery. And along the way, mystery met serendipity …
The Hindu Literary Review has always been a favourite and on the Sundays that they arrive, I usually end up with a book wish-list. But it is not always that the wish-list is fulfilled, sometimes I lose interest, sometimes I feel I should wait for some more time, and so the books in the list gets scattered. Some survive and move from wish list to cart. And from cart to home takes some more time.
And so, my cart on amazon always has some books waiting for the click. I am just waiting for the right moment and then it is all systems go … go … go … yeah, buying books is like a military operation. So, on Sunday, I open the Literary Review and the bottom of the first page carried a review of Zac O’Yeah’s Tropical Detective: A Hari Majestic Mystery. I liked this … waah, review of crime fiction! This is the third in Zac O’Yeah’s Hari Detective series. I had always wanted to read the first and the second, but somehow missed them. The reviews and feedback have all been good for these two. And recently I saw that the third in the series is also released and with great fanfare, I dropped all three in my shopping cart. I’ll buy all three in one go, I thought. And there they were, all in the cart and this review appears. I get this serendipitous nudge. No more delay-dalaying I thought more strongly.
I then flip to the last page and see this article Stout and shad roe: Nero Wolfe – a detective who loves his grub. Nero Wolfe … hmmm … haven’t heard this name before. The article was about this detective created by Rex Stout, who loved his grub and had a personal gourmet chef in his house. He is enormously fat and never leaves his house. After reading this piece, I was not only hungry for breakfast, but also hungry to read Nero Wolfe’s stories. So, another crime fiction article, eh … not bad.
I turn the page and go to page 2. Is that a review of Pradeep Sebastian’s book? He usually writes about rare books, book making, book-collecting and so on, on these same pages. He has written a book? The last time he came out with a book, The Groaning Shelf, it was a treasure for book collectors and antiquarians, and I absolutely loved it. And this book under review? Waah … it is a bibliomystery – The Book Hunters of Katpadi!! I don’t know what this feeling is called, but somewhere I knew that if at all anybody wrote a bibliomystery in India in English, it would be Pradeep Sebastian. I felt happy and pleased that my private prediction had come true. This one I had to read.
Three articles about mystery books? I went to the first page to see if this is a mystery fiction special supplement or what … no, it was not that … just coincidence. I go to page 3 and there staring at me is a review with the title Birbal meets Father Brown. This is too much ya. It is a book called The Tree Bears Witness: A Birbal Mystery by Sharath Komarraju. Detective Birbal? The review says the book promises some good Mughal murder, mystery, and sleuthing.
Not bad … four mystery reviews … Tropical Detective and The Book Hunters of Katpadi pucca buying only …
I felt as I had eaten a hearty breakfast. I went out and bought my regular weeklies – Outlook, India Today, and The Week. Took up Outlook and started from the last page, and on the book review pages, I see this review of Umberto Eco’s Chronicles of a Liquid Society. It made me feel excited. I have read and immensely enjoyed Eco’s novels and essays, and I was saddened by his passing away in February 2016. At that time there was a faint rumour that a collection of his essays would be forthcoming and I have been keeping a diligent watch. Some months ago I saw Chronicles of a Liquid Society on amazon and was elated. I didn’t buy the book immediately, I thought I’d wait for the paperback. Yeah, the hardback being sold was expensive. I knew that I would buy the book eventually. The reviewer (Shobhit Mahajan) says that as a bibliophile, Eco has a number of essays on books and there was a reference to Nero Wolfe, the gourmet detective. There is a ‘fascinating’ essay on Nero Wolfe, Mahajan says, for which Eco spent two months rereading all the eighty Nero Wolfe stories! Nero Wolfe again! Twice in the same day! This was certainly a serendipitous moment for me … now my curiosity was piqued. I had to read Eco’s book and also Nero Wolfe’s stories. Eco’s book would come in a bit later, but in the meantime I found the first Nero Wolfe novel floating in cyber-world as an e-book and started reading it. All this is happening on the same Sunday.