Muzaffar Jang is back! Announcing: Crimson City

(Plug alert: my latest novel, what it’s about, and some background)

Some of you who’ve been reading this blog for a while—or who know something of what I write about besides classic cinema—probably know by now that I am also the creator of a fictional 17th century Mughal detective named Muzaffar Jang. Muzaffar first appeared in a short story in a collection of South Asian women’s writing, called 21 Under 40. I had, however, already half-written a novel featuring this protagonist, and that book, set in the summer of 1656, went on to become the first full-length Muzaffar Jang novel, The Englishman’s Cameo, published by Hachette India in 2008.

Seven years later, and here I am, at the fourth book of the series.

Crimson City, the fourth book in the Muzaffar Jang series.

Crimson City, the fourth book in the Muzaffar Jang series.

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge, both for me and for Muzaffar. Muzaffar started off in The Englishman’s Cameo as a 25-year old Mughal nobleman, a maverick (‘with friends in low places’, as my editor described it) with a love for coffee, books, and nature. Single, with a long-ago romance (he was jilted) still rankling, but without a love in sight. Much attached to his elder sister Zeenat Begum (who also brought up Muzaffar) and her husband, the Kotwal or chief law officer, of Dilli.

The Englishman's Cameo, the first book in the Muzaffar Jang series.

The Englishman’s Cameo, the first book in the Muzaffar Jang series.

Crimson City was named for Dilli. Not only because Shahjahanabad, the city that Shahjahan built here after he shifted the Imperial capital from Agra, used a lot of red sandstone, but because this city—and the Empire it represented—was by this time blood-stained. Shahjahan had squandered most of the resources of what had once been one of the wealthiest courts in the world: his building projects, his love for jewels and beauty and other expensive extravagances had depleted the treasury to such an extent that the Empire was searching desperately for new (and prosperous)  territories to annex. The Deccan was picked out, and by early 1657, Aurangzeb and Mir Jumla (the latter the Diwan-i-Kul, or Prime Minister, of Shahjahan) had besieged the Fort of Bidar.

I wondered: what would Dilli, so many hundreds of kos from Bidar and the action there, be like in 1657? I envisaged a city where rumours ran rife. Where some would be skeptical about the Empire’s ability to survive, and some perhaps gung-ho, cheering on the conquering heroes. For much of the general populace, though, I thought, that faraway war would be just that: faraway. Life would, for the time being, remain pretty much unaffected. Work would go on. There would be births and marriages and deaths.

The latter two motifs—marriage and death—play an important part in Crimson City. Muzaffar’s marriage to Shireen (whom he first met in the last story of The Eighth Guest & Other Muzaffar Jang Mysteries, and whom he married in Engraved in Stone) is still new, and my hero needs to adjust a lot. Not just to the heady feeling of being newlywed, but also to discovering things he hadn’t known about Shireen before.

The Eighth Guest & Other Muzaffar Jang Mysteries, a collection of short stories.

The Eighth Guest & Other Muzaffar Jang Mysteries, a collection of short stories.

Engraved in Stone, the third book in the Muzaffar Jang series.

Engraved in Stone, the third book in the Muzaffar Jang series.

… and there’s death. A cloth merchant, Aadil, is found stabbed to death in his house, which is in Muzaffar’s mohallah. And Khan Sahib, the Kotwal (and Muzaffar’s brother-in-law), who has always been supportive of Muzaffar before, even inviting his assistance, is suddenly antagonistic. The strain of upholding the law in an increasingly wild city has taken its toll, and Khan Sahib warns Muzaffar off: do not interfere.

But the deaths begin to pile up. And the mysteries. Some, surely unconnected to the first killing. Some uncannily like it to be coincidences.

What will Muzaffar do? Will he stand by and let the law try its fumbling best (now this begins to sound like a Hindi film, where the cops are always far more inept than the hero…). Or will he, Hindi film hero style, jump in and do what’s right, even if it’s liable to get him into trouble?

Most important of all, what lies behind the series of killings in Muzaffar’s mohallah?

Read for yourself. Crimson City is now available for pre-order online at Amazon India, Flipkart and Infibeam; it will soon be available in brick-and-mortar stores as well. Digital versions and overseas copies will be available within the near future too.

And, to whet your appetite, the book trailer:

Plus, the revised covers of The Englishman’s Cameo and The Eighth Guest & Other Muzaffar Jang Mysteries, both redesigned so that the books now look like a series.

The Englishman's Cameo, revised cover.

The Englishman’s Cameo, revised cover.

The Eighth Guest & Other Muzaffar Jang Mysteries, the revised cover.

The Eighth Guest & Other Muzaffar Jang Mysteries, the revised cover.

If you are at all interested in history (or if you know anybody who is), read this series—and tell me what you think!

Last but not least: please, please spread the word. Share this post, tweet about it, tell your friends.

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64 thoughts on “Muzaffar Jang is back! Announcing: Crimson City

  1. Madhu – please work with Amazon and push for a Kindle version. Please…. I don’t live in India, this is the only way I can get my hands on it. I love Muzaffar and your writing
    !!

  2. Aren’t I suddenly glad that I have to visit India in November? The wait is suddenly shorter than usual. :) Looking forward to it, Madhu. All your other books have pride of place on my bookshelf; this will prove a welcome (and quickly read) addition. Thanks for the heads-up. Will order it online and ask for it to be shipped to my sister’s. (I still have a bone to pick with you about getting Jang married off!)

    • “(I still have a bone to pick with you about getting Jang married off!)

      LOL. And this one has him pretty much ‘domesticated’, as a friend of mine says. ;-) Thank you so much for the enthusiasm, and for the support. Seriously, if I write another Muzaffar Jang adventure (there’s no certainty that I will, since this was the last of the books under a contract)… it will be because of readers like you and Sucheta and Harini (and so many more). Bless you, all.

    • Thank you. Do, please, give the books a try. If you find history interesting – and I don’t mean the usually dry political history so often taught in Indian schools, but stuff like what people ate, how they dressed, and so on – the stuff of everyday life, so to say – I’d recommend the Muzaffar Jang series.

  3. You know what I like best, it was the book trailer, it is quite nice. The trailer is bound to evoke the curiosity of Muzaffar Jang followers. Wow! It must be wonderful to have this talent to create a fictional character and sustain reader interest over so many books. Wish you all the best with the series, not that you need it considering you are already a well-known novelist, but then a few more good wishes, I am sure are welcome.

    • Shilpi, thank you so much! And yes, more good wishes are always welcome. More than welcome – they are what keep me going. Every now and then I’m plagued by serious self-doubt, so anybody who tells me they like my writing, or that they wish my books do well, does me a world of good!

      My husband made the book trailer. Thank you, on his behalf. He will be glad to know you liked it. :-)

  4. For a person like me who’s spent almost his whole school life trying to convince his classmates that history is interesting, books like these come as a big relief Madhu didi! A murder mystery in Mughal times is too irresistible a combination to miss plus (disregarding the ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ saying) the covers are lavishly attractive perfect for the era. I prefer reading printed books so I will order on flipkart and will tell my other friends as well. Looking forward to the whole series too!

    • “who’s spent almost his whole school life trying to convince his classmates that history is interesting

      That reminds me of my school days! When we had to choose between Arts, Science and Commerce, a lot of my friends who chose Science couldn’t understand, no matter how hard I tried, that I wanted to study history, and that I found it interesting. I think the problem is that a lot of history that’s taught in schools in India is just badly written: they focus too much on political history, which can be pretty boring. More of a focus on – say, cultural or social history (how would you send a letter to someone in medieval India? How did people clean greasy fingers after eating? What did they wear?) – would be so much more fun.

      And, thank you so much for wanting to read the Muzaffar Jang series and telling your friends! I hope you like them. :-)

  5. I had told myself that I will get MJ series on my next visit to India in December this year. I just know it will keep me happily busy through the long winters. ..

    Now that you have released a new book in the series, I am even more desparate to get my hands on this material. December is far far away or should I say “abhi dilli bahut door hai”?

    :(

    • Thank you, Ashish! Aur Dilli abhi door nahin hai – because you don’t actually need to be in India to get the books; they’re easily available on Amazon (US, UK, and other international sites), plus on other e-tail sites, such as Abebooks. Crimson City will take a while, but the others are already there. Both paperback as well as digital versions.

      • Just ordered the first book in the series via Amazon.com. I didn’t find any ebook/Kindle version of this book (The Englishman’s Cameo). Abebooks also has a long delivery time and no ebook option.

        Now the wait begins (est delivery between Oct 6th and 22nd)

        • I didn’t find any ebook/Kindle version of this book (The Englishman’s Cameo)

          That’s really odd – because when I check Amazon (not Amazon India, but the Amazon site), it does show up. But anyway, if you got the paperback version, I guess that’s okay. Thank you, and I do so hope you like it! Be kind to me: that was my first book. ;-)

          • There may be a IP address based routing which might send you back to Amazon India (that would be my guess). I will try Amazon India version to check if they would let me buy a kindle version.

            • You might have a point there, Ashish. Because – although the URL still shows as Amazon.com (rather than Amazon.in) – the prices are shown in rupees. By the way, a friend of mine has just bought the Kindle version off Amazon UK.

              • Amazon India shows the Kindle version but when I click to buy, it tells me “Kindle version is not available in your county”, which means I will have to wait for the book to arrive via snail mail.

                  • Wow! That sounds great! I will certainly do that for the remaining three books. I ordered the first one and it did come earlier in this week so I do have some time now to get the next three lined up by the time I am done with the first one. And not to steal the thunder from the book, but what a gripping novel this is! There is no way NOT to be completely in awe of the writing! Enjoy!

  6. Looking very much to reading the Crimson City!
    Wondering how Jungsaab is adjusting to married life and if Shireen approves of his ‘connections’.
    Much more than that looking forward to a journey through time and feel home in such an exotic place.
    BTW, I admired your descriptions of what life would have been for poor people.
    Thank you Madhu for writing these fascinating books and for being a guide to this historic era

  7. Till I stumbled upon your blog, I hadn’t heard of your history based whodunits though I am crazy about crime fiction. I guess this is partly due to lack of adequate publicity. I will certainly read your novels Ms. Madhu and wish you all success and more Muzaffar Jang novels in the future.

    • “I guess this is partly due to lack of adequate publicity.

      True. Because detective fiction written by Indians (and that too historical detective fiction) is so much a niche market, the publishers don’t really bother much. They’d rather be spending their money doing publicity for their foreign imprints (which anyway probably don’t need much publicity anyway!).

      Thank you so much for the support, and I do hope you like the Muzaffar Jang books!

  8. for a second I though it was “Jung” between Arvindji and Jung in our own ‘Crimson city’ of Nayi Delhi!! will try to get hold of the book here in Bengaluru and read it!

    • LOL!

      The Englishman’s Cameo was published back in 2008, so Jang has been around for 7 years now. Hopefully the Kejriwal-Jung jang will get over sooner. ;-)

      You might find it easier to buy the book online from Flipkart or Amazon.

  9. Hi Thanks for the new book. Was just walking out of the Relay store at Bangalore with a magazine, when I looked back and saw the Crimson City. For a minute I couldn’t believe my eyes and then of course I rushed to buy it. Now waiting impatiently for my wife to finish reading it, so that I can read it too.

    • Thank you for buying it, Satrajit! And I hope both you and your wife enjoy it. :-) Do, please, if you can, leave a rating or review on Goodreads/Flipkart/Amazon, wherever.

    • Ah, You work for Indian Oil? Glad to see this review up there, too. Vikas Datta (the reviewer) has posted this on several sites, including Yahoo and IndiaTimes, if I remember correctly.

      I hope the weather gets better soon for you! Not in Chennai, are you?

      • I am at Chennai. remember it happened around your review of Karnan.
        It is now sunny but vast sections of the populace are still feeling the aftermath of the deluge.
        Schools have reopened , that is a major relief.

        • “vast sections of the populace are still feeling the aftermath of the deluge.

          I can imagine. The effects of something like this don’t go away in a hurry. I hope you and all those dear to you remained safe and well. Must have been pretty traumatic, considering everything we’ve been reading and seeing in the newspapers. :-(

  10. I am just beyond curious about your books! I’ve checked out Amazon US, they have only two for Kindle right now – I will get them, of course! Can’t wait to read the stories!

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