By Maya Palit
If you’ve missed Lalli, she’s back with a bang.
Lalli, a middle-aged detective created by the Mumbai-based writer and pediatric surgeon Kalpana Swaminathan, has been brought to life in five racy novels before and is often called the desi Miss Marple. Swaminathan said she’s fed up of the young age bracket for glamorous female detectives. Instead, she decided to write an oddball character in her sixties, a fierce retired police detective with perfect shooting skills and a somewhat whiny niece who is her accomplice and sidekick.
And now Lalli is the showstopper of Swaminathan’s new novel Greenlight. It begins with a girl in Kandewadi, a small slum near Andheri in Mumbai, going missing in the middle of the night. When two other girls go missing as well, the neighbourhood panics, and keeps their children locked up at home. And then the bodies begin surfacing, the media goes wild, and Lalli has to get to the bottom of what’s happening to what’s going on.
Here are the opening lines of the first chapter, which give you a sense of what is to unfold:
March was not meant for murder. Not March, flirting a pink froth of blossom on newly green trees. Never March, busy with birdsong, brisk mornings, close afternoons and a swift swoon into night, adrift on a tide of stars. Not this March, so tender with unexpected love, not now.
But this was March, and here was murder, and I in the midst of it.