Saturday, February 18, 2012

Picture Imperfect and other Byomkesh Bakshi Mysteries by Saradindu Bandyopadhyay

Byomkesh Bakshi was a popular TV series in the early 1990's which aired on Doordarshan, having never watched the show and hearing many encomiums about it, I picked up the book on which the show is based. now you might ask why would I not just watch the TV show instead of reading the book? very candidly speaking I have  entered a few reading challenges this year that require me to read a mystery from Asia or your home state/country. Also I thought it would give me the opportunity to analyse Indian mystery writing to its European and American counterparts.

The stories were was originally written in Bengali and have been translated in English. Since the book consists of multiple stories, I'm going to write short capsule reviews of each one. 
The Inquisitor(“Satyanweshi”) - We get introduced to Ajit(Watson) who is a writer and Byomkesh Bakshi the detective as he investigates a locked room murder in the mess where the two stay. Poor writing by Bandyopadhyay gives the identity of the murderer away, its also not difficult to figure out the motive either.

The Gramophone Pin Mystery("Pather Kanta") - Mysterious Murders are occurring in the most ingenious manner in Calcutta. Rich men are murdered road side with a Gramophone pin piercing their heart. 
Nice mystery, well written but the explanation of why the murders are being committed road side is not satisfying and I still cannot fathom how the pin was aimed at the victim's heart from the weapon. can't say more this is a spoiler free blog.

The Venom of the Tarantula(Makorshar Rosh) - A short story about an old man who is addicted to spider venom and is able to take his dose of the drug even under constant supervision of his family. A very clever mystery and with some good sense of humor. Ajit is sent by Byomkesh to investigate this as  Byomkesh is busy with a different case.

Where There's a Will ("Arthamanartham") - A Capricious old man who keeps changing his will according to his whims is found murdered in is his room by a pin which has penetrated the meeting point of the medulla and the vertebra. Everyone in the family is a suspect and Byomkesh is asked by the commissioner of the police to investigate. This is an easy read, the identity of the murderer is not difficult to figure out. But still a decent mystery. 

Calamity Strikes("Ognibaan") - A female neighbor is found dead in a kneeling position in front of a gas stove with no apparent physical injury or trauma. The story is very intriguing and shows how innovative Saradindu Bandyopadhyay could be. Saradindu goes into Carr mode with an Impossible crime.

An Encore for Byomkesh("Upasanhar") - Somebody wants Byomkesh dead and is using a poisoned match box to get him out of the way. is it an old enemy? The worst story in the book, there is little mystery and the identity of the murderer is given away by Ajit in a callous manner when he drops a big in your face hint.

Picture Imperfect("Chitrachor") - Change of location. Byomkesh moves out of Calcutta to an obscure hill side region. The change of scenery bodes well as he investigates a most fascinating mystery involving a picture that is stolen.This uses Christie's least likely suspect formula.

We Indians have a flair for imitating and seems like this was not missing in our forefathers. Byomkesh Bakshi is a Bengali Sherlock Holmes. but to the credit of the Author the mysteries are decent and original. 

I'm giving this book 3 stars out of 5. A nice light read set in pre Independence Calcutta. nothing awful but nothing special about the book either.

Where can you buy it? It's easily available in Bookstores and online. a tab bit expensive though. 275 rs I paid for this. I expect local authored books to be cheap.

These stories were published in 1930's so I'm entering this post in the Vintage Mystery Reading challenge and since this book is based in Asia and in India, I'm also entering this in the Global Reading Challenge and Criminal Plots reading challenge.


  1. Warm Greetings!
    Today, I visited your website and found it to be very informative. I'm highly pleased to see the comprehensive resources being offered by your site.
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  2. thanks "free facebook likes" :)

  3. Satyajit Ray, the famous film Director has also written detective stories (available from online book stores). Have you read these ? Bhaskar

    1. Hi Bhaskar,

      haven't got an opportunity yet to read the Feluda series, I hope to get to it one day :)

  4. Are you kidding me Rishi? An Indian wirting a blog about mystery stories and has never read Feluda? Pick up the Penguin omnibus immediately. It is in chronological order, "The Royal Bengal Mystery" is the best of the lot.

  5. Feluda is good undoubtedly. But still Byomkesh is incomparable and all time best creation by Saradindu Bondopadhyay

    1. hello,

      if you love Byomkesh I suggest you check out the tv series too! its really well made.


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