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Many Bizarre Mysteries

Smita Bhattacharya
Smita Bhattacharya Author Interview

The Secret Angels follows a woman who moves to a home where a serial killer stalks the streets and she becomes the next target. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?

I wanted to write a potboiler mingling elements of Mumbai and our daily lives living here. I stay next to a very interesting place in Bandra, Mumbai, called Chapel Road. It is a mind-boggling place, gorgeous in its decrepitude, unique in its miscellany, with a tremendous amount of personality. I cross it daily to go to work or shop for groceries. So I thought: why not make this the setting for my accidental detective Darya Nandkarni. Chapel Road could make an ordinary story extraordinary. It would be ‘atmospheric’ in the true sense. Darya could land up here and solve a crime no one else could, just as she always does. Hmm… now what kind of a crime would that be?

A few years ago, there had been a case of a missing woman in Bandra, who it was later found had run away to join a cult. Lo presto, the idea formed in my head and got written into a book.

Darya is an intriguing and well-developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?

Not too long ago, I came to the realization there were not many books with normal female leads in them. The women in the books I read were usually tragic, struggling, or simpering women waiting for a glance from a hard-hearted (but rich!) man. I wanted to create a normal female lead, like the kind I hung out with or imagined myself to be, who did not have to have suffered tragically or waiting for a knight-in-clunky-armor; she could do fun things despite it. Hence, was born a series with a strong-willed, stumbling-through-life woman—Darya Nandkarni—who is imperfect and gutsy, and lives as she wants. She uses her cleverness and wit to navigate through life and solve the many bizarre mysteries that are thrown along her way. She is who I want to be.

I enjoyed the quaint lane Darya moves to. What were some sources that informed the communities development in the story?

I stay right next to Chapel Road where the story is set. Like I described in the book, it is as glorious as it is decrepit. Every time I move past it, I mildly wonder what new graffiti awaits, or which new vendor has popped up to sell me her delicious and eclectic home-cooked ware. But the lane is broken-down, dirty, and congested too. To quote from the book: “Feels like I’m inside a kaleidoscope.”

This is book two in the Darya Nandkarni’s Misadventures series. What can readers expect in book three?

The Secret Angels is preceded by ‘Kiss of Salt’ where Darya solves an intriguing ages-old family mystery in Goa. It is followed by ‘Who Threw Draco Down the Chimney?’ where Darya is in Sibiu, Romania. A backpacker is missing. Impressed by Darya’s past exploits, the owner of the missing boy’s hostel tasks Darya to look for him. After some digging, Darya leads the police to an old farmhouse. They find the backpacker’s two-week-old dead body wedged inside the chimney. Along with two others.

The locals think it is the devil’s work. Darya knows not to trust local superstitions, of which there are many. But the crime is so diabolical, so unique, it begs the question: who could be doing this?

Darya needs to find out urgently before she is forced to leave Sibiu. And as she races to solve the mystery, she has to make sure she doesn’t let new friendships or the town’s insidious secrets get in her way.

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Darya was meant to be in Mumbai for two months. No more.
It was going to be an ordinary study break. Just that.
Except things didn’t go according to plan.

The year before, Darya accidentally solved the mystery of her uncle’s untimely death in Goa. A year later, she finds herself embroiled in another bizarre mystery: this time at Mumbai’s quirky Chapel Road.

Darya had thought Chapel Road in Bandra was a quaint little lane when she’d decided to rent there. But she soon realized a tragic mystery lurked behind its peculiar charm. Three women had disappeared from there in the past three years, purportedly murdered by a serial killer. No bodies had been found and no one was ever caught.
And now it was that time of year again. Who would it be next?

At first, Darya is only concerned about her creepy landlords, her reticent neighbours, and her temperamental roommate and best friend, Veda. But when one of the missing girls winds up dead in a hotel room, and Veda disappears, Darya is spurred to find out what’s really going on.

But what if it was her own life, actually, that was most in danger?

If you loved J.K Rowling’s Cormoran Strike or Rob Thomas’ Veronica Mars, you’ll love Darya Nandkarni.

If you liked The Secret Angels, check out the first in the series: KISS OF SALT and third in the series: WHO THREW DRACO DOWN THE CHIMNEY?

The Secret Angels

The Secret Angels (Darya Nandkarni's Misadventures Book 2) by [Smita Bhattacharya]

The Secret Angels (Darya Nandkarni’s Misadventures Book Two) by Smita Bhattacharya is a sensational mystery story set in the Bandra neighborhood of Mumbai. Over the past five years, three girls have disappeared from Chapel Road in the months of June and July. Although no bodies have been found, the locals believe it is the work of a serial killer that the media has dubbed the Angel Killer. After Darya moves to Chapel Road, she hears about the stories. Then women start disappearing from the villa where she and her friend Veda are staying. When Veda goes missing too, Darya is determined to find out what happened to her and the others. Will Darya end up being the next victim?

I enjoyed the mystery aspect of the book and I liked following the clues as more and more information was slowly revealed. The descriptions of the neighborhood and businesses and homes were detailed and helped me to create a clear picture of the setting. I wanted to know what would happen next and it kept me interested in reading the story. The ending was not at all what I had suspected. Several of my initial conclusions turned out to be incorrect, and I liked that I was not able to guess the truth early in the story. The lingering questions at the end of the book left me looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Who Threw Draco Down the Chimney? (Darya Nandkarni’s Misadventures Book Three).

While I did enjoy reading this novel, I felt that there was a lot of backstory and description of secondary characters at the start of the book that slowed the pace and made it hard for me to get into the story at the beginning. Darya, in the end, is an interesting character, but I felt that there were aspects of her character that were revealed part way through the book that felt as though they didn’t fit with the image of her that was created in the beginning.

The Secret Angels is still a riveting crime story that has a compelling mystery at its core that will easily draw in fans of noir crime novels.

Pages: 295 | ASIN : B07ZMR9MB4

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