Ram Murali talks ‘Death in the Air’ & Murder Mystery

In an exclusive interview with DESIblitz, Ram Murali dives deep into his murder mystery tale ‘Death in the Air’, which is his debut novel.

Ram Murali talks 'Death in the Air' & Murder Mystery f

"But then the idea for this book came to me, and here we are."

Death in the Air captivates readers with a thrilling blend of suspense and sophistication, marking the debut of Ram Murali in the literary world.

Murali has gone from law and TV production to being a writer, creating a locked-room mystery that echoes the classic intrigue of Agatha Christie while delving into themes of identity and belonging.

Set in the luxurious Samsara resort nestled in the Himalayas, the story follows Ro Krishna, a charming and accomplished individual grappling with the aftermath of a mysterious departure from his high-flying career.

Amidst the opulence and serenity intended for recovery, tension escalates as one guest meets a fatal end.

With the hotel in a frenzy to contain the scandal, Ro is drawn into an investigation where danger lurks behind every corner.

In an exclusive interview with DESIblitz, Ram Murali delves into his journey of becoming a writer and writing his debut novel Death in the Air.

Why did you transition from a legal career to writing fiction?

Ram Murali talks 'Death in the Air' & Murder Mystery

I actually transitioned out of law a very long time ago.

After practising law for a few years, I decided I wanted to do something more creative and ended up going to film school at New York University (NYU).

I then worked in film and TV development and production for more than a decade.

When I left my last job, I decided to take some time off without any clear idea of what I was going to do. But then the idea for this book came to me, and here we are.

How did the idea of Death in the Air come to you?

I was staying at a spa similar to Samsara over Christmas right before the pandemic and I couldn’t stop thinking about what a great setting it would be for an Agatha Christie-style mystery novel.

But I’d never written a word of fiction in my life, so I just filed the thought in the back of my head.

Over the next year, though, it kept coming back, and more and more details of the plot kept coming to me, without my even thinking about it.

Finally, a year and a half after I’d first had the idea, I decided to try to write the book.

Can you describe your writing process?

Maybe it’s because of my background as a lawyer, but I’m someone who needs to be very organised.

I outline everything in detail before I write it.

I’m happy to deviate from the outline if needed, but I need to have an idea of where I’m going, even if it ends up being wrong.

Were there challenges when writing your debut novel?

Ram Murali talks 'Death in the Air' & Murder Mystery 2

For me, the biggest challenge as I was writing the book was something I’m sure every debut writer shares: an overwhelming feeling of futility!

“It feels like such a cliché to try to write a novel, and it feels like nobody ever finishes their book or gets it published.”

But it’s just something you have to power through every day. I’m certainly glad I ignored that voice in my head!

How did your law and film/TV background influence your approach to writing?

It was a huge influence.

In film and TV, you can’t just give background information – it has to come out through dialogue.

I made the conscious decision to write my book that way as well, and as a result, it’s unusually dialogue-heavy.

I also made the conscious decision to have it feel as much like a movie as possible.

As I was writing, I tried to make it feel like I was adapting a movie into a book rather than the reverse.

Death in the Air has been described as a sophisticated and thrilling locked-room mystery. How did you balance these elements in the story?

Well, this is a very flattering question.

I suppose the most important thing here was the pacing.

I tried to make every scene count and serve a purpose and I tried to put in as many cliffhangers as I could.

How did you develop Ro Krishna’s character?

Ram Murali talks 'Death in the Air' & Murder Mystery 3

Here, once again, the most important thing was dialogue.

I feel like I got to know Ro and developed his character through learning how he interacted with other people, both one-on-one and in a group.

I wanted to make Ro a character I’d never seen before – a minority who had achieved everything he’d ever wanted and was at the top of the social ladder but suddenly found himself at an impasse.

So many of us who have roots in one country but were born and raised in another are cut off from our ancestors and their traditions.

Ultimately, it was important for me to show that Ro’s way forward was actually through connecting to the past.

What inspired you to choose Samsara as the story’s location?

The book would never have happened without Samsara – the location absolutely came first, and the rest of the story followed from there!

How do you incorporate themes of identity and belonging into the murder mystery narrative?

Well, I think this is a question of character development.

In so many murder mysteries, the characters aren’t really affected by the fact that these people are dying around them.

“And it’s true that murder mysteries in general are sort of an absurd construct.”

But here I wanted the characters to feel real grief and to take stock of their lives because of what was happening around them, and when they took a deep look inside themselves, questions of identity and belonging came to the forefront.

How do you feel about your novel being compared to works by Agatha Christie and Kevin Kwan?

Honestly, I can’t even believe my book is being mentioned in the same sentence as either of them!

Of course, Agatha Christie is hugely famous but I don’t think she gets nearly as much credit as she should for the quality of her writing.

It’s so unobtrusive but I think she’s one of the single best stylists ever to have written in the English language. She transports you directly to wherever the action is taking place.

And Kevin Kwan is just an absolute legend. He completely rewrote the paradigm with Crazy Rich Asians, he fundamentally changed the parameters within which minorities are seen.

“I could never have written this book if he hadn’t written his books.”

One of the biggest surprises and honours of my life has been Kevin’s support for my novel. It feels like I’m dreaming every time I think about it.

What does it mean to you to get praiseworthy reviews from esteemed authors like Lucy Foley and AJ Finn?

It’s something I can’t even believe.

The fact that these incredibly talented and busy people would take the time to read the book of an unknown author, and then write something nice about it, just blows me away.

I’m incredibly, incredibly grateful.

The only thing that I can say is that I will always try my best to do the same for others going forward.

Do you have any new projects or books in the pipeline?

I’m working on a few different things but it’s a bit too early to talk about any of them. Watch this space.

Death in the Air navigates themes of identity and belonging within a murder mystery narrative, reminiscent of the classic mysteries by Agatha Christie, yet with a modern twist.

Ram Murali’s debut novel is a thrilling ride through the high-stakes world of the uber-wealthy and a thoughtful exploration of cultural identity and the human condition.

As we conclude, it is clear that Murali has big plans for more novels.

Death in the Air releases on June 20, 2024, and you can secure your copy here.

Lead Editor Dhiren is our news and content editor who loves all things football. He also has a passion for gaming and watching films. His motto is to "Live life one day at a time".

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