Art imitating life, or is it the other way around? Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character so popular and ubiquitous in popular culture that he almost seems real; many, indeed, have thought him so. Samuel L Clements, by contrast, was a real man so flamboyant, omnipresent and iconic that he can seem almost fictional, a character far better known, of course, by an entirely fictional name: Mark Twain. Anuradha Kumar’s interleaving of fact and fiction in her recent “Bombay mystery”, The Kidnapping of Mark Twain, seems somehow fitting.

Four people at a Hyderabad newspaper publishing company drop dead from heart attacks on the same day. It’s not impossible that people could have heart attacks on the same day, but the timing seems suspicious to the police, namely the lead investigator, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Mona Ramteke. This is the lead-in of Aditya Sinha’s mystery, Death in the Deccan, a fun and quirky whodunnit that at times could also be used as a cardiology and toxicology primer. 

The Dead Chip Syndicate, Andrew W Pearson (Brother Mockingbird, August 2023)
The Dead Chip Syndicate, Andrew W Pearson (Brother Mockingbird, August 2023)

Offered the chance to run his twin brother’s A.I. company, Anthony Wilson ditches his failing screenwriting career to start anew in Macau. The job turns highly lucrative when Anthony’s new client, Cash Cheang, a pompadour-topped and Johnny Cash-loving casino operator, hands him a bag full of cold hard Yuan to implement a facial recognition system in his casino.

Amid the scorching heat of August 1947, the Edo Tattoo Society hosts a spectacle that captivates the city: a competition to crown the person with the most exquisite body art. Held at a garden restaurant, their first post-War meeting draws a large crowd. Among the attendees is Kenzo Matsushita, recently returned from the war where he served as a military medic. He has only a passing curiosity about tattoos yet becomes completely swept up in the excitement of the evening. 

During the 1910s, Hong Kong’s new Governor Francis Henry May seconded a delegation of Sikh police officers to Fiji. May had had a recent stint as Governor of Fiji and before that Captain Superintendent of the Hong Kong Police Force. He felt that Hong Kong’s police force could teach Fiji a thing or two. While it was by no means unusual for the British to employ Sikh policemen in their imperial possessions, Fiji differed in that it already had a population of Indian indentured servants who worked the sugarcane fields on a contract for five years. 

On 29 September 1985, four men arrive at the Mill House, located deep in the mountains of Okayama prefecture, for their annual visit, but the weekend quickly spirals into a sinister nightmare: two bodies are discovered, a guest goes missing, and a valuable painting disappears. Exactly one year later, the remaining guests gather again, hoping to put the past behind them. However, with the approach of a typhoon and the arrival of an unexpected visitor, an eerie sense of foreboding returns. 

Kotaro Isaka’s Three Assassins follows hot on the heels of the release of Bullet Train, the Hollywood movie starring Brad Pitt, based on the English-language edition of the author’s previous thriller of the same name. The novel alternates between the voices of Suzuki, a former middle school math teacher turned scammer; The Whale, a towering presence who convinces his victims to end their own lives; and Cicada, a notorious killer of entire families.