Tiny Habits of Police Investigation

The Detective Diaries

The Detective Diaries is a continuation of his first book, Murder in the City. Discerning readers will spot changes in investigative techniques. I wish you a thrilling literary journey ahead.

– Rajeev Kumar, Commissioner of Police, Kolkata [20/12/2018].


At various stages of writing, I have received invaluable help from colleagues, past and present, for which I am sincerely grateful. As always, I have been fortunate to receive the unstinted support of Shri Rajeev Kumar, without whose constant generosity and encouragement this book would never have made it to the publisher.


Additional Commissioner of Police (III) Shri Supratim Sarkar’s efforts, translated in English, is again nothing short of brilliant. It is as difficult to spot the truth as it is to spot the lie, if we rob ourselves of our technological tools. An investigator, awarded with physics/statistics/chemistry, often finds his answer in philosophy; in a fact that existed all along, but remained supernaturally invisible.

An excerpt.


Speaking of cinema, those who have seen Satyajit Ray’s Sonar Kella will remember the moment when Lalmohan Babu spots the shop selling golden-colored bowls and directs Feluda’s attention to it. That is his deductive moment.

Speaking of cinema, those who have seen Satyajit Ray’s Joy Baba Felunath will remember the moment when Bikash, on being asked about his whereabouts at a certain time, had said he was listening to the radio, more specifically to Begum Akhtar. She wasn’t on air during the period concerned.


“It has been Anil Goenka’s long-standing habit to come to Tollygunge Club for a few rounds of golf three days a week – Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Today’s Thursday, and he’s taking a break after round two, sipping on fresh fruit juice, when his wife Jayshree calls with news that his mother is missing. Anil can barely contain his panic and distress.

Home is Shriniket Apartments at 11, Ashoka Road, Alipore. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that something is indeed very wrong. Lalita Devi Goenka is nowhere to be found. Finally, only one place remains – the storeroom. The key is in a drawer of the dressing table in the bedroom. Not ‘is’, as they soon find out, but ‘was’. The key to the storeroom is no longer in the drawer. The storeroom lock is broken once the Police arrive and after one look at the scene within, Lalita Goenka’s daughter-in-law Jayshree falls into an instant, dead faint. A seventy-year-old matriarch of a prosperous business family brutally killed in an upmarket apartment, her body – with the throat slit – recovered from a storeroom.

The victim’s sons were not exactly an advertisement of brotherly love. There were a total of eight full-time servants: Shibu Mahato – cook; Ashish and Amalesh – household shopping; Triloki Singh – supervisor, cheque depositor; Khagen and Rajesh – caregivers; Sita and Lakshmi – household chores, small errands. On the night of the murder, six of the eight servants were present [Shibu, Ashish, Triloki, Khagen, Sita, Lakshmi]. Lalita Devi trusted – Lakshmi, Triloki, Rajesh – the most. A call is made to Rajesh’s home in Odisha, asking him to return as soon as possible. A similar call is made to Amalesh. On the hunt for a clue, nobody is left out: four lift-men, four sweepers, caretaker, his assistant. Outcome? Zero.

The motive remains unclear. The most likely option is that a servant, or a few of them together did it. All of them come from low-income families. Motive, money. There’s a Sherlock Holmes novel called “The Sign of Four”, where Holmes says at one point, “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

Aashiq Ahmed [Currently OC, Metiabruz Police Station] stares absent-mindedly out of the window. The evening show is about to begin at Basusree Cinema and people are streaming in. He looks at the poster.


This is the film that Rajesh was talking about. Traffic begins to flow again. As his car crosses Jadubabu Bazar, Aashiq suddenly feels a wave run through his brain cells, the ones that Hercule Poirot called ‘little grey cells’. ‘Turn back!’ Back to Hazra Crossing, Aashiq walks right into Basusree Cinema. ‘How long has Yuva been running here?’ ‘Oh, we started last week, Sir. It released about two months ago, but another film was doing good business. We brought Yuva here only last week.’

However coincidental it may seem, what worked for Aashiq is the inborn instinct of an investigator. Without preamble, staring Rajesh in the eye, he asks the question. ‘How did you like Yuva?’ ‘It was good, Sir.’ ‘When did you watch it?’ “Oh, about a month ago, Sir. I told you, Matinee Show, Basusree.” Grabbing Rajesh by the collar, he drags him to the lift, then into the car, and then straight to Lalbazar.

“I went into the drawing room, and unlatched the door of the bathroom that’s never used, and once I went it, I latched the door from the inside. I stayed in the bathroom all day. I slept in the bathroom itself. That bathroom hasn’t been used for years. I knew nobody would even think that anyone could be hidden inside. At around three o’clock in the night, I came out of the bathroom…” “Only for money. I put the money in the suitcase and left to catch the train to Odisha.”

The same night, Aashiq leads a team to Rajesh’s home in Odisha, where they recover Rupees One Lakh, Fifty Eight Thousand. Court praised Aashiq’s investigation.”