The Velvet Hotline, Arsh Varma

Ayingbi Mayengbam, a well-meaning primary school teacher, wants to take on some part-time work over the summer, ideally, a job through which she can help people. When her first day as a volunteer at a suicide hotline ends in her finding a dead body, she is done with this line of work. But soon, she is approached by the winsome Dr Rastogi, a man who runs another suicide hotline with a more altruistic approach, and she is unable to say no.

While initially shy and uncertain, Ayingbi learns quickly, her warmth and sincerity enabling her to connect well with callers, and her fierce determination to save lives compensating for lack of experience. Over time, however, Ayingbi is confronted with an unfortunate realisation: when working at a suicide hotline, you simply can’t save everyone. On top of that, there is something sinister afoot at Rastogi’s agency, least of which are the three phones in Ayingbi’s cubicle, one of which begins to ring without being plugged in. . .

The Kidnapping of Mark Twain: A Bombay Mystery, Anuradha Kumar

In 1896, Mark Twain arrives at the docks of Bombay, wife and daughter in tow, and, after attending a party in his honour, vanishes from his room at the iconic Watson’s Hotel in the dead of night.

Desperate to find the legendary writer and avoid an international incident between his country and Britain, the American Trade Consul, Henry Baker, teams up with Abdul, his trusted aide, and Maya Barton, a free-spirited Anglo- Indian with surprisingly intuitive detective skills. But they have their task cut out for them: Mark Twain’s disappearance appears to be entangled with a thriving opium trade; an intimidating, self-righteous preacher; an anxious magician who walks on stilts; a professional thief on the run; and a powerful labour leader, Tuka, whose young wife is found strangled in her bed.

Urdu: The Best Stories of Our Times, edited and translated by Rakhshanda Jalil

This anthology presents a kaleidoscopic vision of the current literary landscape by bringing together some of the finest contemporary writers of fiction. In these pages, we find stories about the land and its people in wide-ranging tones: compassionate, sarcastic, whimsical, witty, tragic, but always thrilling and enchanting in equal measure. Translated into English for the first time, this landmark volume offers an exhilarating glimpse into Urdu literature today.

Welcome to Paradise, Twinkle Khanna

Huma’s divided family – Team Cemetery and Team Crematorium– clash hilariously over matters involving pigs and penises as they decide what to do with Amma’s body. Madhura Desai writes an email to the chief justice of India, urging him to choose a “nice cut-off age” to die, sending shockwaves across the nation. Along the shores of Satpati, Nusrat grapples with the loss of her son, and her voice. And Amita tells her husband about her breast implants but not about Bua, Bangalore. and beautiful men. Welcome to Paradise is a madcap of a ride.

All That Sizzles, Sakshama Puri Dhariwal

Wedding planner Tanvi Bedi is all fired up about her latest project, the $100 million wedding of a media heiress. The only hitch is her high-profile client’s wishlist chef, Nik Shankar. Weddings are a complete no-no for Nik, but there must be something – or someone – he can’t resist.

Nik Shankar’s lifelong dream of inheriting his ancestral home is in jeopardy due to his estranged grandfather’s absurd caveat – Nik must get married to claim the property. When Tanvi storms into his office, an inconceivable solution presents itself: Nik will craft the wedding if Tanvi pretends to be his fiancée.

What starts as a recipe for disaster whips up into a delectable feast of simmering chemistry and fiery passion. But as the line between fake and real blurs, Tanvi and Nik must confront their inner demons before their charade goes up in smoke.

Could love be the secret ingredient they need?

Hot Stage, Anita Nair

When elderly Professor Mudgood, a well-known rationalist and fervent critic of right-wing forces in India, is found dead in his home in Bangalore by his daughter, ACP Borei Gowda is quite certain that it is a homicide.

Although all evidence points to the murder being politically motivated, the more Gowda delves into the case, the more convinced he is that it isn’t an assassination. As he and his team launch a parallel investigation, they stumble upon a secret and murky world where there are no rules or mercy. When Gowda’s hand is forced, he takes a calculated risk and infiltrates the sinister domain to bring the truth out into the open. Will he succeed? And at what price?