A NEST OF VIPERS by Harini Nagendra, FI
A NEST OF VIPERS by Harini Nagendra, FI
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The Big Thrill Discusses A NEST OF VIPERS with Harini Nagendra

Book Cover: A NEST OF VIPERShis latest novel in the Bangalore Detectives Club mystery series takes the reader deep into the historical era surrounding the visit by Edward, Prince of Wales, to Bangalore in 1921. When the prince begins a tour of a number of Indian cities, he encounters passionate crowds demanding independence from Britain, with rioting on the streets of Bombay in November 1921.

The mood of the prince’s subsequent trip to Bangalore and Mysore in January 1922 appears, at first glance, very different and is made to large, welcoming crowds. But perhaps all is not what it seems to be. While exploring another (seemingly unrelated) crime scene, Kaveri and Ramu become tangled in a complex web of intrigue, getting pulled into a potentially dangerous plan that could endanger the life of the visiting prince.

This new novel also takes us into the world of jadoo—Indian street magic—with sleight-of-hand magicians, snake charmers, and rope tricks. Kaveri and Ramu continue their sleuthing, with help from the Bangalore Detectives Club, amidst the growing rumblings of Indian independence and the backdrop of female emancipation.

Harini Nagendra recently sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss her latest historical thriller, A NEST OF VIPERS.

Author Photo: Harini Nagendra

Harini Nagendra

Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?

A number of books were in my head – Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, Patricia Wentworth’s Miss Silver, and Baroness Orczy’s Miss Molly of Scotland Yard.

When you first created your protagonist for this book, did you see an empty space in crime lit that you wanted to fill? What can you share about the inspiration for that character?

My main protagonist, Mrs. Kaveri Murthy, is 19 and newly married to a prominent doctor. She loves mathematics, but is discouraged from studying by her mother-in-law, who believes that too much studying makes a woman’s brains go soft. Kaveri is modeled on many older women from my own family, who were bright and brainy, ambitious even, but denied the opportunity to study or to work outside the family. Kaveri not only continues her studies, but also teaches a group of women in her neighbourhood how to read and write – including her gossipy neighbour Uma aunty, ex-prostitute Mala, and feisty Anandi, once an abused wife and housemaid, now a budding businesswoman. The Bangalore Detectives Club is, at its core, about the sisterhood of women.

Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?

Absolutely. The year was 2007, and I was looking through a pile of historical documents on Bangalore, for some archival research – and Kaveri, the main character, parachuted into my mind – as one reader commented, she apparated into my life! – demanding that I write about her. It took me until 2019 to complete the book, and 2020 for it to get published – but that’s the moment when it all began.

A novel is such a major undertaking; there’s the writing of it, of course, then you’re spending months and months revising, polishing, and then promoting it. How did you know this was the book you wanted to spend the next couple of years on?

I spent 13 years on book 1 – but it grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let go. I just had to write it. It was too compelling – Bangalore is my favourite city, the 1920s are such a wonderful Golden Age to delve into issues of women’s rights and the Indian independence movement, and the Garden City’s ecology – the joy of writing the characters in their setting propelled me forward.

In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?

I hope to be able to talk about difficult issues of gender and caste discrimination, the colonial exploitation of India, and women’s rights, through the absorbing mode of a good mystery book, reaching wider audiences through a ‘light touch’ approach.

What can you share about what you’re working on next?

I’m working on book 4 in The Bangalore Detectives Club series, Into the Leopard’s Den. Set in the misty mountains of Coorg, the book examines the destruction of nature, forests and wildlife to grow commercial coffee plantations. I just returned from a great research trip to Coorg, scouting out old palaces, sacred forests, ancestral homes and British bungalows that are hundreds of years old, which make a great setting for the book, which will be out in May 2025.


Harini Nagendra is a professor of ecology at Azim Premji University, and an award winning writer and public speaker on issues of nature and sustainability. She features on the Stanford University of 2% top cited scientists in the world.

She has published three historical mysteries: The Bangalore Detectives Club, Murder Under a Red Moon, and A NEST OF VIPERS; and a number of non-fiction books including Nature in the City: Bengaluru in the Past, Present and Future, Shades of Blue: Connecting the Drops in India’s Cities, So Many Leaves, and Cities and Canopies: Trees in Indian Cities. Harini lives in Bangalore with her family, in a home filled with maps. She loves trees, mysteries, and traditional recipes.

To learn more about the author, please visit her website.