Kalpana Swaminathan is a surgeon and the author of the novels Ambrosia for Afters and Bougainvillea House, and a collection of detective stories, Cryptic Death. She has also written six books for children. She shares the pseudonym Kalpish Ratna with Ishrat Syed, and their writings on science, the arts and literature have appeared in several publications. Kalpana Swaminathan’s Lalli is the first genuine Indian detective in the English language. Her latest book, The Monochrome Madonna is the third book in this very popular series.
Razor sharp, witty, independent and something of a loner, Lalli, a retired police inspector in her sixties, has earlier appeared in two previous books: The Page 3 Murders and The Gardener’s Song.
Here's a short Q&A with the author:
1] India has had a dearth of well written detective fiction. What would you attribute this to?
India has a dearth of Indian fiction. We have plenty of writers and so many write so well—but how many of their books do you notice in bookshops? They aren’t visible enough. Indian fiction makes up less than 5% of the display!
Detective fiction’s just one more wall flower.
2] Lalli is a lady detective, perhaps the one thing she shares with Miss Marple. What or who were your inspiration for creating this character?
Miss Marple was created 80 years ago—and there have been so many women detectives before and after her. It’s a vast sisterhood. Hey—you just gave me an idea for a new book!
Lalli isn’t inspired by anyone. She’s her own person
3] What is the most challenging part about crafting a detective-mystery novel?
Not to feel challenged! Ease is everything. Writing is pure pleasure, and it defeats the purpose when you have to work at it.
4] With each Lalli mystery, have you seen Lalli evolve as a character?
That’s a question for the reader, actually. For me—I keep pace with the narrator’s relationship with Lalli. How much does she see and understand of the woman she lives with? It’s a question of great interest to me in all relationships—the point when identity escapes the constraints of the relationship and becomes individual. And that’s when a relationship truly begins. I try to keep that pace in fiction too.
5] Who are your favourite mystery writers/characters?
Naturally, Mr Sherlock Holmes. The rest are just chaff.