Before reading, “The House of Fear” I had not heard of Ibn-E Safi. I don’t think anyone from my generation must have and I have to say that they are then missing out on one of the finest Urdu mystery writers’ works. It is not only written in simple language, but also has wit and charm attached to it.
The House of Fear is a publication of Random House India, which consists of two novellas – The House of Fear and Shootout at the Rocks. While reading them, I thought they were unusually short for a novella, however it struck me later that it is best for mystery novellas/novels/short stories to be short or else it will not be able to hold the readers’ interest. I have always loved a good mystery and more so something which is unique.
In this case, it is but the sleuth Imran, whose father Rahman is the Director General of the Intelligence Bureau in Karachi, Pakistan. Imran is an odd ball, who seems rather stupid to the rest of the world, however manages to solve cases with his razor-sharp mind and deductive logic powers. He is after all the Perfect Spy, who I thought was just being incospicuous to be able to solve cases better.
In this volume, the two novellas that I mentioned are constructed around simple plots: In the House of Fear, dead bodies are found in an abandoned house, with one clue: Each body bears three identical dagger marks. Who is behind these murders?
Shootout at the Rocks was my personal favourite amongst the two, as it spoke of the world’s deadliest gangs, Li Yu Ka and how a certain Colonel Zargham gets involved with them and it is up to Imran to save his life.
Agatha Christie singled Ibn-E Safi as the original Urdu detective writer in the entire subcontinent and I not surprised why. There is something about the way the man wrote his stories. Ibn-E Safi started writing the Imran series from 1955 right up to 1980. There are almost 120 of Imran’s books alone and I wonder if we will ever be so lucky to be able to read all of them. I hope so.
P.S: The translation by Bilal Tanweer is superbly done. You might also want to check out more on Ibn-E Safi on his official website: http://www.compast.com/ibnesafi/