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In 1929 British crime writer Ronald Knox codiefied a set of 10 commandments, a decalogue for all crime writers. The rules included that no Chinamen should feature in the plot, only one hidden passage or room was allowed and that the friend of the detective, the Watson, must not hide any thoughts from the reader.

Mumbai-based Smita Jain cares nothing for these rules: her detectives are smart, stylish, urban women who will fix their make up while chasing a lead. Her first offering, Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions sold well and Jain decided to pen another titled Piggies on the Railway (Tranquebar-Westland).

But with her new private investigator Kasthuri Kumar, Jain is creating a detective series for her readers. “You can call it chicklit-cum-crime. There is a mystery, a ditzy detective more in tune with glamour and celebrity, dishy dudes, bitchy women and smart repartee,” says Jain.

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Somebody asked me the other day if writing crime fiction was significantly different from writing any other fiction. At first glance it would appear that it is not. After all, crime fiction is like telling any other story. It has to have a plot, a properly paced story graph, character development graph, conflict, resolution etc etc.

However, I think crime fiction is probably the more difficult to write because it requires the most careful crafting. You have to keep track of so many things. What actually happened? Who are the characters? What are they saying? Are they lying (duh!)? If so why? All the threads have to be tied up and all the loopholes plugged.

Then there is the question of detail. How much detail is too much detail? It is generally agreed that if your PI knows it, your readers should, too. However, it has to be given in a clever and interesting way or the readers will zone out.

It is considered bad form to hide vital information from readers and then rejoice when they fail to guess who the real killer is. One has to constantly remember that your readers will always be trying to second guess you. Therefore it is a real challenge to give out all the information and still retain suspense.

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