Wednesday, June 20, 2012

JAustenwannabe Presents: Tulips, Indian Culture, and Intrigue: Tulip Season: A Mitra Basu Mystery

Why Tulips?

Bharti Kirchner

    A friend examined the cover of my latest novel Tulip Season: A Mitra Basu Mystery—a row of yellow tulips and a trickle of blood flowing out from a blossom—and asked, “Why tulips? Why not roses, my favorite flower?”
   Well, for one thing I grow tulips—red and yellow cup-shaped ones—in my garden. And, walking around my neighborhood, I am enchanted by other varieties as well: pink and orange, fringed and ruffle-edged, early variety and late-bloomers. But to answer that question, to explain my fascination with the flower, how it has followed me for years, finally sneaking into my book, I have to go back to the past.
   As a child growing up in India, I’d spent many enjoyable hours reading Alexandre Dumas’ 1850 novel titled, The Black Tulip. Although not as popular as his Three Musketeers, this novel, especially its obsession about a flower, gave free rein to my imagination. The story concerns itself with Cornelius van Bearle, a tulip fancier in the Netherlands, passionate about growing a rare black variety, and meeting with competition from another tulip lover.
At the time, I hadn’t even seen a real tulip. In the eastern part of India where I lived with my family, we cultivated roses and jasmine, but tulips were not to be seen. I could only recall a picture of the flower from a botany book. It resembled a rose, its u-shape holding a mystery, as it were, the mystery that won’t be revealed to me quite yet.
Many years later, as an adult, I went to Hollandto work and found myself in the tulip country. Although the flower was believed to have originated in the Ottoman Empire, it was the Dutch who have been historically captivated by it. It intrigued me to learn that the Dutch tulip traders were responsible for bursting the economic bubble in the 17th Century (the first such collapse in the world) by constantly raising the price of the coveted bulbs. Although I never saw a black tulip, at the end of the year when I left Holland, I was filled with memories of visiting acres of bright tulip fields.
Eventually, I moved to Seattle, another tulip country and which, according to some reports, now supplies Holland with tulip bulbs.
In Seattle, I became a writer and discovered that important elements of a novel often originated in the past. They haunted you. Even so, as I began writing my fifth novel, I had no idea what role tulips would play, if any.
 Tulip Season: A Mitra Basu Mystery
A missing domestic-violence counselor. A wealthy and callous husband. A dangerous romance.
Kareena Sinha, an Indian-American domestic-violence counselor, disappears from her Seattle home. When the police dismiss suspicions that she was a victim of spousal abuse, her best friend, Mitra Basu, a young landscape designer, resolves to find her.
Mitra's search reveals glimpses of a secret life involving her friend and a Bollywood actor of ill repute. Following the trail, Mitra is lured back to India where she uncovers the actor's ties to the Mumbai underworld and his financial difficulties - landing her in a web of life-threatening intrigue where Mitra can't be sure of Kareena's safety or her own.

Bharti Kirchner is the author of five novels and four cookbooks and hundreds of short pieces.
Tulip Season is available in print and eBook format.


  1. I really enjoyed that - a glimpse into the mind of the author, a little backstory. What's not to love?

    1. So sorry I've taken so long to reply. Thank you so much for your comment. I'm very glad you enjoyed the blog post.