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    With the launch of Anita Naira��s Chain of Custody, herea��s a look at other much loved detectives

    s INSPECTOR Gowda makes his reappearance in the second of Anita Naira��s detective series, Chain of Custody, I feel an urge to reminisce about my all-time favourite literary genre a�� crime/detective fiction. This seems to be a good time to take a wander down a blood-and-thunder-lined memory lane and revisit favourite sleuths.
    My early encounter with detective fiction (as for many) was through Agatha Christie. Her Miss Marple was a rural treasure with her knitting wool and village stories, gentle blue eyes hiding a formidable intellect. More beloved was Hercule Poirot and his a�?little grey cellsa��, waxed moustaches and razor-logical solutions to bewildering whodunits. Also high on the list were the older British detectives: Colin Dextera��s opera-loving Inspector Morse and Ngaio Marsha��s ex-Etonian police officer Roderick Alleyn, upright men with unerring instincts for ferreting out the truth. I rediscovered the one and only Sherlock Holmes (arguably the greatest detective ever created) anew when actor Benedict Cumberbatch gave him a new lease of life recently: a fast-paced modern-day avatar with razor-edged cheekbones a�� whata��s not to love? Conan-Doylea��s classics still bewilder and fascinate, calling out to be read and re-read.
    My list would be incomplete without the damaged and depressive Scandinavian police officer Kurt Wallander (in books by Henning Mankell) and my beloved poet-detective, Adam Dalgliesh, created by the erudite PD James. I was intrigued by Robert (JK Rowling) Galbraitha��s flawed investigator, Cormoran Strike, and he grew on me. My favourite female gumshoes include Sara Paretskya��s tough cookie, VI Warshawski and Sue Graftona��s sassy yet vulnerable Kinsey Milhone (from the Alphabet series). And oh, Alexander McCall Smitha��s gorgeously characterful Precious Ramotswe of Botswanaa��s No 1 Ladiesa�� Detective Agency, displaying bushels of good humour with sharp intuitive skills.
    Which factors create enduring deep bonds between readers and popular fictional detectives? Character, Ia��d say. Therea��s always a special eccentricity which makes them remarkable and identifiable. But these must go beyond mere physical traits or existence as a mere a�?pawn on a timeline,a�? according to Virginia Woolf, who dwelt on character creation at length in her essay Mr Bennet and Mrs Brown.
    As Inspector Gowda embarks on his second literary sojourn, I asked Anita Nair what she thinks makes a fictional detective special. a�?It is either character quirks or a flawed personality that makes him or her real. A perfect being and a great detective would fall into a superhero category, and in the world of crime and punishment, superheroes have as much credibility as the Batmobile,a�? she says.
    Combine flawed, real characters with a gripping plot, perhaps a vicious criminal mastermind a�� ita��s a no -brainer to see why detective fiction is so enthralling. So maybe consider picking up a book or two featuring some such memorable detectives and re-acquaint yourself with them. As detective fiction writer Rex Stout says, a�?To read of a detectivea��s ingenious stratagem is a rare joy.a�?
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    -Rumi Singh


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