The Lund University in Sweden is celebrating its 350th year. It has invited some of its finest alumni for the celebrations, including investigative journalist Re Parkar. But on the first day of the celebrations, Professor Heinz falls dead, just as he was demonstrating his magical runestones which he wanted to decode a message. Parkar and his friend, Officer Stefan Weiss, who is also one of the invitees, get into action mode. Aided by Magdalena Lindberg, Parkar goes cross-country trying to decipher what the runes wanted to convey.
Voice of the Runes - When Souls Connect, But Vengeance Speaks, is the second in the Destination Novel series, written by Manjiri Prabhu. And it captures all — the landscape of Sweden, the cathedrals, the windmills, the charm and the magic (of falling in love) and the current of deception that runs strong beneath. It’s a thriller that will keep you guessing and also slowly unravelling the ancient runes. Here’s more from Prabhu, the founder-director of Pune International Literary Festival...
- Tell us the idea of Voice of the Runes being written in Magdalena’s voice.
Usually, thrillers and mystery novels are in third person because they add to the excitement and take the reader to different locations, sometimes all over the world. A third person narration also gives you several viewpoints and takes the story forward through the ‘eyes’ of diverse characters.
But somehow, right from the beginning, I knew that I wanted this book to be different. I wanted Magdalena Lindberg to tell this story as she assisted Re in solving the mystery. For me, it was a challenge that I gave to myself — writing a mystery/thriller that unfolds in 36 hours, in first person from a single viewpoint and maintaining a balance between speeding action and deep emotion. I found the ‘voice’ of the novel through the ‘voice’ of Magdalena. For me, as an author, this is the success of the thriller of a first-person narration.
- I believe, you wanted to write The Trail of Four as a romance story between an older woman and a younger man, but it became a thriller. Has that plot thread of romance and love found its way in the Voice of the Runes?
Yes, The Trail of Four was to be a romance but it was, also, always meant to be a thriller. Romance is an integral part of all my mystery novels because it is an essential emotion that acts like the glue in my plots.
Voice of the Runes is a haunting love story, rather shocking in its intensity of emotions and so the romance runs parallely and even dominates the plot at times. It was completely intentional.
As for the older woman and younger man romance, that book too is on its way!
- Do you get vibes from a particular place and incorporate them in a book? For instance, the windmill in Voice of the Runes and Ales Staner?
I feel that a particular place literally calls out to me and that these novels have a way of being born. When I visited the Schloss Leopoldskron, in Salzburg, (where the film Sound of Music was filmed), I knew that I would one day base a novel there. And that is how, eventually, The Trail of Four was born.
In Voice of the Runes too, the Runes called out to me, taking me all the way from India to the south of Sweden.
But yes, sometimes you visit locations like the windmill and Ales Stenar, at a certain time of the day, with the sun shining just right and the wind and sea so alluring that you know instantly that the characters would gain immensely from visiting these locations and the plot would have to lead them there.
- When you travel to these destinations with a purpose of writing a book, what is your state of mind? Are you at any point able to behave like a tourist?
I am never a tourist, I am always a writer, at work! My camera is continuously rolling and clicking. Once, an American, who was observing my constant clicking of pictures, stopped me and asked me in a rather amused manner, ‘Do you even see all those thousands of pics you take?’ I said, ‘Yes, I do. Every one of them!’
When I click pictures of the beach, I know that when I go back home, I will notice the pebbles on the beach, their discolouring and shapes. When I see the landscapes, I am already describing them somewhere at the back of my mind and making notes.
I am very clear when I travel for my book — I have to represent that part of the country in the most responsible and authentic manner and in the minutest details possible and hence for me, the trip is a journey and a relationship that I have already begun with my novel.
- When you discover and write about mythology, pagan rituals, shamanic rituals, how does it affect you as an individual?
I believe that life has mysteries that we may never understand. Energies that we may never see. Dimensions that science could one day explain but, as of now, are beyond our understanding. So, when I research about the metaphysical, or about ancient rituals and languages, I am aware that there is a lot beyond my comprehension. I am not at all judgemental and I keep an open mind.
To share a strange little incident — in The Trail of Four, there is a human heart that is buried in the chapel of the palace. What are the chances of finding another cathedral with another buried human heart? One would think that it is a rare enough phenomenon, right? But can you believe that of all the places in the world, the one cathedral I chose to use for my next book — in Sweden — surprisingly had a buried human heart! I wasn’t even aware of it. That is why I believe that this series is blessed with the spirits of palaces and castles!
And that is why I have a non-jaundiced eye for all faiths, rituals and folklore.
- Do we see Stefan and Re Parkar working together in the next book, which I believe is going to be set in Munich?
They could…I like the way they work as a team with separate roles. And given the fact that they started off on a wrong footing in The Trail of Four, I believe that they have an interesting work-relationship and are doing good work in solving international crime.