Satyajit Ray, crime writer
First, the story's form. Ray read and admired Sherlock Holmes, and A Killer in Kailash is full of delightful nods to Holmes and to Hercule Poirot. Feluda's cousin Tapesh narrates the stories in an amused, sometimes bemused, manner, like a Bengali Watson. Feluda, surprised by Tapesh's failure to grasp a clue's significance, tells him that "Even the few grey cells you had seem to be disappearing, my boy. Stop worrying and go to sleep."
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So Ray was a Hindu nationalist, right? Not so fast. At various times in the story, Feluda admits he can't speak Hindi, and Tapesh overhears two men arguing, but "They were probably speaking in Marathi, for I couldn't understand a word." When Feluda and company board a plane for Bombay, Tapesh notes that none of them had visited that city before. Without anything like didactic intent, the story is a refreshing reminder of the glorious d-------y of Indian society.
A Killer in Kailash offers amused references to Hare Krishnas, and, quite naturally, a vocabulary lesson or two. Chowkidar (from the Urdu language) is a fine word for night watchman. I'd always liked cheroot, but I never knew until looking it up that the word derives from Tamil, yet another language spoken in India (also in Sri Lanka). How can a simple detective novella be so thought-provoking, so educational, and so much fun?
© Peter Rozovsky 2015