Sunday, 29 December 2013

Alex (Verhœven, #2)Alex by Pierre Lemaitre
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A well deserved CWA International Dagger winner!!

During November this year Crime Writers Association came up with a poll, which among other categories voted Agatha Christie as the best ever crime writer. Maxim Jakubowski, a CWA member and a celebrated crime novelist was not happy with the verdict or the choices put up in the poll. According to him, and I also believe, that although Dame Christie remains as the doyenne of crime writing, but the genre in itself has developed way beyond what she created, and that today its encompasses much more than just being populist literature. But, it’s also true that any crime writer does need to pay his respect to the shrine of Christie, atleast once in his/her career. Alex by Pierre Lemaitre shows us in the clearest way possible how crime fiction has travelled this long way to stand where it is today.

Dont read this book. If your life is almost perfect. If you have a cozy atmosphere surrounding you, if you are yet to face crumbling situations, and insane brutality which makes you realise that there is always “Evil Under The Sun”. Because this book will make you sad, angry, will make you feel helpless, will make you wonder what kind of a person is capable of such brutality. But, then again, read it. Read it because if you like crime fiction, you will be guilty of murder if you skip this book. Because as soon as you finish it you will rush out of your house catch anyone you see first, and will start babbling that you have just finished an awfully gruesome, conceited, twisted crime thriller which you need to talk about.

As the name of the book suggests this book is about Alex Prevost. Every chapter, every page is dedicated to this character. For all those who thought Amy from Gone Girl was intriguing, they will have a tough choice in front of them once they have finished this book.

Commandant Camille Verhoeven, the protagonist, a bitter man who has just lost his pregnant wife to a kidnapper, reminded me of Endeavor Morse. Easily irritated, living alone he even has a assistant whose name is Louis. Even the relation between him and his superior Le Guen, reminded me of Morse and Strange. And somewhat for this reason the character of Verhoeven never made a definite impression on my mind. Maybe because it was the close proximity to Morse’s character, but what the real reason was, the presence of Alex. In a book whenever there remains a character as enigmatic as Alex Prevost, it becomes too difficult for the other characters to make an impression over and above her.

The plot is something which I have never read before. While the conventional points of twists and pace was ever present, but what would make this book as different as possible from most crime fiction, is the.....the problem here is, the reader should go into the book without any inkling of what’s there in the plot, what to expect. That way the enjoyment (if the emotion that emerges at the end of the book can be called that) will be at its zenith.

So, Monsieur Lemaitre, the end of my edition says that you will be coming out with next book in 2014. 2014 is here, and I cant wait to get my hands on it.
P.S. For all those who thought Jo Nesbo could be gory and brutal (including me), please take the plunge.

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Wednesday, 25 December 2013

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax  (Mrs. Pollifax #1)The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Whenever one comes across a spy thriller, one comes to expect a book stuffed with action, men fighting over secret messages, high ranking officials giving orders, and higher ranking officials being revealed as spies. And, if it is a modern day spy thriller, add to all the above a bevy of gadgets and an over-the-top protagonist. And, for these reasons I had moved away from spy thrillers in recent times. Somehow the prospect of reading about gadgets and dashing heroes don’t appeal to me.

And, for this reason I enjoyed reading THE UNEXPECTED MRS. POLIFAX, by Dorothy Gilman. The book was set in the times of the cold war, the protagonist Mrs. Emily Polifax was no muscle bound Adonis, but rather an old lady, bored with life, who walks up to the CIA headquarters to apply for the job of a Spy. The action takes place, at first, in Mexico, then in the Eastern European nation of Albania. This point got a huge thumbs up from me, as for me no Cold War spy thriller is complete without an Eastern European setting.

The plot and setting reminded me of Alistair MacLean books. This was more of an adventure with the good and the bad being segregated and clearly defined right from the beginning. The scope for suspense was low. But nevertheless Gilman managed to create a book, which was a page turner. And has not lost its charm even 50 years after it got published.

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Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Ashes to DustAshes to Dust by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Of all the Nordic crime writers I had experienced, I had an opinion that Jo Nesbo is the mad-dest of them all. And, why shouldn't he be?? With the kind of brutal torture scenes in his books, and the ability to make a very peace-loving reader like me relish those scenes, he certainly deserves his status as the “mad-writer” whose taste for brutality can be called an act of a Genius.
Yrsa Sigurðardóttir might not have reached that level of madness with her scenes of violence in her book ASHES TO DUST, but when it comes to the theme of the book, she beats Nesbo hands down, and presents us with a book the ending of which left me in a dark mood. Unlike most crime fiction where the ending means the culprit being detained, and with a few losses of bodies here and there, the ending leaves the reader satisfied and happy, well almost. But, such was not the case here. Yes, the culprit did get apprehended, but the ending was dark, and by the time the motive of the culprit comes out in the open, I was left with a sense of an utter sadness. So, if you want to read this, beware, no doubt you will read a great work of crime fiction, but you will also read a book which is dark, very dark.
Þóra Guðmundsdóttir, was the protagonist. A single mother and a lawyer, who gets entangled in this mystery didn't make a deep impression in my mind. Maybe because the plot was so overwhelming that it eventually overshadowed the protagonist. Unlike other Nordic crime fiction, the speed of the book was slow.
Summing up, this book is definitely not for all and sundry. A voracious crime reader should go for it, I can vouch that he/she wont be disappointed.

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Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The Leopard (Harry Hole, #8)The Leopard by Jo Nesbø
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Harry Hole is hiding in a hole in Hong Kong, sleeping his days off, gambling away his time and in the process getting himself deeper in debt, owing money to the Triad. In the midst of such heartbreaking atmosphere, Oslo police sends a one man search team to find out Hole and bring him back to Norway, as his expertise suddenly are in much demand, as another serial killer has started business and have already claimed three clients. His modus-operandi is unique, as he uses an old Belgian torture device called Leopold’s Apple to torture and murder his victims, all female. Hole back in Norway is assigned the case unofficially as he begins to move through the murky waters on Police politics and African colonists to uncover the grisly truth.

I had two reasons for being frightened that I might just end up not finishing this book.
1. 900+ pages. Daunting and somewhat wary-ish. I dont look forward to reading 900+ pages long crime books. 900+ pages mean that the book, in tune with my schedule, is going to be a long read. And, I don’t like a thriller which becomes long drawn, somehow I feel less inclined towards the book after a span of 4-5 days.
2. This was the 8th Hole novel. And I was not sure whether I could tune in into the booka dn the character. As so much has been written about this character and series, somehow I had the feeling that I might miss out or feel left out of the whole “HARRY HOLE” persona. And end up not enjoying as much as I should have liked to.

But, within 50 pages I knew that both the above mentioned points were not gonna stop me from taking as much pleasure possible from reading this book. Make no mistake, this one had all the stereotypes associated with a police procedural featuring a serial killer. It had,
1. A serial killer.
2. Female victims.
3. (most importantly) A disgruntled, broken down police officer who is not much obedient and has constantly been in trouble with his superiors.
4. A plot laced with internal police politics.
But, despite these points Nesbo managed to write a book and create a plot which not only spans from Europe to Africa but also manages to be a fast and furiously twisted ride, with a stereotype protagonist like none other. Cutting, short I loved this book. 900 pages in 4 days flat tells the story.

Lastly, my guess is that Mr. Nesbo is a mentally sick man. No sane person can create murder scenes. One victim’s torture method really made me cringe and read those pages over and over again. Now had he been sane, and just left it at the victims being just murdered, had I been that blown out of my mind. No!! So thank you Mr. Nesbo, your descriptions were gory and grisly, and I enjoyed reading every bit of it.

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Friday, 4 October 2013

The Merry Misogynist (Dr. Siri Paiboun, #6)The Merry Misogynist by Colin Cotterill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: Don’t get fooled by the title, this book is neither about the Canadian author David Gilmour nor Sir Naipaul.

First line: By the time the calendar pages had flipped around to 1978, Vientiane, the capital of the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos, had become a dour place to live.

The great Dr. Siri, Laos’ only coroner is facing charges from the Housing Department of his country of subletting his house to a motley group of shady characters. He is faced with the charge of profiting from a house which had been allotted to him for his shelter by the party for free. As he decides to fight these charges, from Madam Daeng’s house cum noodle shop, where Siri is currently staying, by enlisting the loathsome Judge Haeng help in fighting off Comrade Koomki of the housing department, his professional expertise is called into service as a dead body of a woman is delivered to his morgue. With apparent signs of assault, Dr. Siri comes face to face with the fact, that a serial killer is killing off women in the country and it is up to him and his friends(Phosy, Civilai, Geung, Dtui and Daeng) to stop this killer and bring him to justice. Added to this gruesome crime, Siri gets on a personal job to find a mentally unstable Indian, crazy Rajid, who writes ridddles and whose father Mr. Tickoo works in an Indian restaurant.

I normally tend to stay away from the American serial killer crime novels. They are boring. The plots don’t engage me in anyway, and here is where this book scores. Full points to Cotterill, who wrote a serial killer novel and made it every bit interesting, and managed to keep me hooked till the last page had gone by. How did he do this? He kept a sub plot of finding Crazy Rajid, which kept the reader moving back and forth thereby driving off monotony. And, somehow his writing style made the parts which do not deal with the main plot interesting to read. Like Dr. Siri seeing spirits or the conversation between Civilai and Siri, or the scenes where Civilai tries to make people eat the buns baked by him.

Though going by Slash and Burn, I thought that even this book will have a high humor quotient, but it wasnt there. But whatever there was, was enough to add the spice of laughter to an otherwise brutal, chilling and gruesome crime novel.

P.S. Look out for the Communist mottos by Judge Haeng, they are present and they are as effective as ever.

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Wednesday, 2 October 2013

1222 (Hanne Wilhelmsen, #8)1222 by Anne Holt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

1222 is the eighth book in the series of Crime Novels written by the Norwegian writer, Anne Holt, featuring retired policewoman Hanne Wilhelmsen. The book is set in the town of Finse in Norway, which lies 1222 meters above sea level, thus making it the highest Railway System located in Norway.

A train carrying passengers to Bergen comes under a hurricane and heavy snowfall, and crashes killing the driver immediately. The passengers on board, including the crippled Hanne, is evacuated to a nearby Hotel, where they are provided with food and shelter as the weather conditions goes from bad to worse. Keeping in tune with the nature the internal atmosphere of the hotel gets chilly, as within a few hours of evacuation one of the passengers is found dead with a bullet hole. Hanne being ex-police becomes the natural choice for leading the investigation.

The plot is in style of a classic whodunnit. We have our murder victims, we have more than enough suspects and we also get a closed door atmosphere. Although the total number of passengers from the train numbered up to more than 190, but the writer while creating a suspect pool kept the number within 10, with the other 180 passengers merely being side characters. The blood and gore normally associated with Nordic Crime fiction was absent. But the ending disappointed me, somehow it felt as if the writer suddenly realised that she needs to end the book hence she needs to get someone within the suspect pool to act as a murderer. This abruptness mellowed down a plot which was going strongly and had the capacity of ending with a high note.

Another point where the book fell flat was the translation. Maybe it was because of this translation the book felt disjointed at times, and I found myself skipping paragraphs. So, if one manages to ignore these points, here is a book which is set in a foreign country, surrounded by an atmosphere as chilly as a psychopathic criminal, a plot which is somewhat loose but fast, and equally enjoyable.

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Saturday, 21 September 2013

A Pinch Of Snuff (Dalziel & Pascoe, #5)A Pinch Of Snuff by Reginald Hill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Thus started A PINCH OF SNUFF by the celebrated British Crime author Reginald Hill, the fifth instalment of his crime novels featuring the protagonist duo of Andy “Fat man” Dalziel, his “sidekick” Peter Pascoe, and deftly helped by Sergeant Weild. And, not to forget peter’s feisty wife Ellie. The book starts with Peter’s visit to his dentist when the doctor tells him that in a recent BDSM adult movie viewing, of which the doctor was a part of, there was a suspicion on the part of the doctor, that the actress involved was really beaten and that her teeth flew of her mouth in reality, instead of acting the part. Pascoe burdened with such revelations decides to investigate the matter, albeit on his own, as Fat Man Dalziel takes no interest in the accusations and clearly states that Pascoe is chasing wild goose. Things takes a turn when the man in charge of the movie theatre showing the movie is found murdered and his home ransacked. Pascoe like a true detective follows his hunch and we are presented with a slow yet a twisted work of crime writing.

This is probably one of those very few detective duo series where the main work, or rather the main leg work is done by the sidekick. At times I feel that Pascoe is the main character with Dalziel appearing like a visiting consultant only to provide valuable snippets of input and theories. But never once reading the book there is a feeling that one of the two is the main character and the other being the sidekick. Hill manages to portray in such a way which makes them look both equal a partner, which is not present too often in crime fiction. Right from Holmes and Watson, through Poirot and Hastings to Morse and Lewis. Not many writers can claim such feat, but among those who can, Hill is one of them. And; this is what makes this duo such an interesting pair of crime fighters.

The plot was slow, and it was twisted, with a lot of connection between the events that takes place. This book needs time for reading; any plans of finishing it in two days flat would fall flat. But once one third of the book has gone by, the plot thickens and the pace starts building. And since the book dealt with a subject which seldom gets talked about or gets featured in books as a subject for a plot, the reading experience is made even better.

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Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Kill ListThe Kill List by Frederick Forsyth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Move aside boys, make way for the MAN”
This is the exact impression I had while I was storming through the book called “THE KILL LIST” by the legendary Frederick Forsyth. Time and time again as he had proved earlier, he again proved why Lee Child remarked about THE DAY OF THE JACKAL “This was the book that broke the mould” The books is cat and mouse chase between an American colonel and a Jihadist Cleric. I guess telling more would give away the plot. And with this book he proved again why he stands as a man, in a crowd of thriller “boys” novelists.

Accepted that KILL LIST was no JACKAL. But, it isn’t a dud either, in fact its a taut and fast paced thriller, which involved huge amount of research (as is the case with every Forsyth book), but never did seem to be out of place. And here lies one of his fortes; Forsyth has that uncanny style of incorporating the non-fiction or the research part into a spy thriller in a way that it never becomes too taxing on the reader. As Elmore Leonard in one of his essays regarding tips to writers had said that, “skip the part which the readers tend to skip.” For that the writer must be well aware of what the readers do skip. Forsyth, in my opinion knows that too much on facts and paragraphs in a fast paced thriller will make the reader skip those pages. The reader wants action and speed; he doesn’t want to be burdened with endless facts. But then how can a political thriller be sound and strong without the facts. Be it the endless committees and hit men of the KGB and CIA in the Cold War novels, or be it the various clans and faction of a Jihadist Terror Group. The facts are needed, and Forsyth presents them in a way that they become essential to the reader, that stops him from skipping those pages. In fact they become exciting and interesting to read.

Another one of his forte, he still churns out standalones in a time where crime fiction is infested with series authors. Make no mistake, I am a huge fan of crime series, but somehow my affection for them is limited to detective fiction, and I really dont enjoy spy fiction with a character reappearing as the protagonist time after time. It’s not justifiable, I guess. How can a spy or a political assassin perform time after time again without ever being compromised. It cant happen. And, here is where Forsyth scores big, he writes standalones and creates worship-able protagonists for that single book. Hardly ever has he used the same protagonist more than twice. One for certain was Mike Martin who appeared in the Afghan and the Fist of God. And, another was Paul Devereaux. I guess it takes a Man to create a brand new HERO for every book and make them stand in the tallest way possible. It’s not a cup of tea for the boys.

Why 4 stars then, instead of 5? Two reasons, First the ending came too fast. And, Second,the protagonist almost had a cake walk. The book never gave a single upper hand to the villain. Now that is something I don't enjoy, and this is appearing time after time in his recent works. I love a duel between the two warriors where both the parties have the same ammunition to blast each other to kingdom come, and that creates tension as there comes a situation where anyone can win, as it used to be in his earlier works. Here it was absent. Barring these two points the book was flawless.

So, is Forsyth my favorite spy novelist? Yes he is. For me he is the high priest. I never had any affection for Le Carre’s style, I mean why read a spy thriller if I it is slow and reads like a work of mainstream fiction, I will read mainstream fiction instead. And this is Le Carre’s problem, his book BORES me to death. Neither they are fast, nor do they interest me. So, with Ludlum gone, and Follet not writing spy fiction anymore Forsyth reigns supreme.

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Thursday, 29 August 2013

The Shape of Water (Salvú Montalbano, #1)The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was again frightened of being blindsided by a PD James phenomenon of not understanding why the writer is hallowed in the world of crime writing, and whether at all the book I just finished can be considered as crime fiction. But, then I started reading Andrea Camilleri’s The Shape of Water, featuring his protagonist, the great Salvu Montalbano, and immediately felt assured that come what may this reading experience won’t turn into a disaster, and that maybe I will end up liking this book a lot. And, that’s what happened precisely.
The plot of the book is a classic whodunit. A local high flying politician dies under unnatural circumstances, and as the local establishments try to cover up the death by marking it as due to natural causes, Montalbano smells foul and decides to carry on with the investigation. As the victim was a politician, the writer had the opportunity to enlarge the suspect pool, but thankfully he kept it limited within his family and his close associates. The ending was good, and it was laced with a number of twists which made it more enjoyable.
Salvu Montalbano comes out as a policeman who is easily irritated and at times irritates the reader too. Which means, I enjoyed his character. The plot had its fair share of violence, but it also had a nice dose of dark humor. There are scenes in this book which if judged from the point of brutality is very brutal, but still manages to make the reader laugh as it is written with a vein of dark humor.
Definitely a page turner, I enjoyed this book immensely. And, I would recommend this book to anyone who is in search for a page turner, set in a foreign country.

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Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Bullet for a StarBullet for a Star by Stuart M. Kaminsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There is a certain pleasure, which I get, while reading fiction filled with original events and characters. This phenomenon was limited to my WW 2 or Cold War spy novels where actual historical figures were made to appear in the books, given dialogues, and scenes. Stuart Kaminsky’s “Bullet For A Star” his first novel to feature the 40’s era Hollywood based private detective Toby Peters, had the same theme, but with a different colour. Here instead of political figures, the men to feature where actual movie stars of that era. The main plot itself is based on the actor Erroll Flynn, while Humphrey Bogart, Jack Warner and at the very end Judy Garland makes cameo appearances.

The plot centres on Eroll Flynn. Someone is trying to blackmail him, as the studio agrees to pay the blackmailer, Peters is called upon by Warner Brothers to make the payment on their behalf. The whole scheme goes wrong as Peters is blindsided, and soon he finds his gun missing, him a murder suspect with dead bodies piling around him. As far as the plot goes there was nothing in it, which has not been written before. But, there was this added factor of the real actors which added a dose of extra pleasure while reading. There is a scene between Peters and Bogart which would go down as one of my the most favourite scene of all times.

I will certainly recommend this book to everyone. This is not only for crime readers. Stuart Kaminsky, kept his book short and made it interesting. In his part he created a plot centred on living figures, which never turned into a parody. This is by far one of the best P.I. books I have read in recent times.

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Sunday, 25 August 2013

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian TrailA Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bill Bryson is awesome, but his friend Stephen Katz is more awesome.

Published in 1998, Walk in The Woods, saw Bryson and his friend Stephen Katz team up once again(they travelled together in Europe, which is described in Neither Here Nor There) to hike the Appalachian Trail. The beginning of the book shows Bryson talking about the difficulties of the hike, as he tries to buy his hiking gear without embarrassing his son(who works in the store). Later as none of his friends responds to his call for becoming his hiking partner, he finds salvation in the form of his childhood friend Stephen Katz from his hometown of Des Moines. Thus they begin their journey from the state of Georgia, as Bryson realises that neither hiking is easy, nor Katz is fit for hiking.

The book is a trademark Bryson, where he mixes non-fiction with a great dose of humour. Though compared to his other books or travelogues the humour quotient of this book was much less. But, nonetheless, where he got the chance, he managed to bring out belly aching laughter from the reader through his descriptions and words. But, what made this book stand apart, or rather makes every Bill Bryson book stand apart is the simplification of the non-fiction part to an extent where not only does the facts and the figures lose any of their importance, but also never becomes boring to read. In a way they merge into the main stream of the travelogue without disturbing its flow.

But, clearly Bill Bryson is not the hero of the adventure, Stephen Katz is. Normally when Bryson travels, he becomes the undisputed King of Laughter. But, with passing pages I gradually realized, that with his dialogues, his guffaws and his penchant for throwing away things, Stephen Katz became the undisputed hero of the books. So much so, that the part where Bryson hikes the smaller parts of the trail without Katz, the book becomes much less interesting. Without Katz the trail loses its glamour!!!

P.S. Cant wait to see the movie with Robert Redford as Bill Bryson, and Nick Nolte as Stephen Katz.

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Friday, 23 August 2013

Death at La Fenice (Commissario Brunetti, #1)Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“A policeman, married to a thief, with a computer monster and an anarchist for children”

Whenever I start a new book by a female author, I start suffering from the PD James-Syndrome, which simplified, means that whether this book will turn out to be another mediocre fiction in the garb of Crime Writing, with nothing to get excited about, and everything (from reading to the money spent on the book) to be sad about. Why PD James-Syndrome? Because this kind of things generally happens with me after reading her books. But a couple of chapters down the line, Donna Leon settled my anxiety, and gifted me with a fast paced police procedural, which not being too much dependent on either violence or twisted plot, was enjoyed by me.

Helmut Wellauer dies while conducting an opera at Teatro la Fenice. Almost immediately, foul play is suspected and Commissario Guido Brunetti is called on the scene to be handed the responsibility of uncovering the culprit. The plot, was moderate, nothing over the top. For a debut author, it was good as she managed to end the book with a solution which although never left me open mouthed with surprise, but nonetheless made me feel satisfied on reading a good work of crime fiction.

Commisario Brunetti is a family man, and as described in the quote above, married to a schoolteacher who cheats at Monopoly, having a son who is a young radical Communist, but never stops at driving a hard bargain in Monopoly, and a daughter who pesters her father for a personal computer. Although the main plot in itself doesn’t have any traces of humour, but the personal conversations between the family members, specially the conversations during the playing of Monopoly, really gets the reader tickled in the right places.

Summing up, this is a wonderful addition to my reading experience, and although not being over the top or being the epitome of twists, this book will be enjoyed by any reader who loves reading police procedurals.

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Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Tell No OneTell No One by Harlan Coben
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What happens when a soccer match, where a hyped and much talked about team was supposed to win with a margin of 5-0, wins by 2-1. The winning team fails to justify the hype and aura surrounding it, though the record books would show that they won. The same problem got associated with this book. It was too much hyped, everywhere you saw. “Tell No One” got blurb-ed as the book which will keep you awake throughout the night just so that you finish it. As far as justifying this hype, the book fell short of its mark. But once you take the hype factor away, it comes out as a neat, fast and twisted crime thriller, filled with a twisted plot, enjoyable(though not believable) characters, and a happy ending.

The plot though air tight was predictable. By the half of the book, any seasoned crime reader would get to know who’s the bad guy. But, knowing the baddie would also make the reader want to know why he did all those bad things. And, although the main baddie gets pointed out, there are other characters whose behaviour and actions would tell the reader loudly that they have got secrets too, which would make the reader stay glued. In short by midway the book transfers from a WHODUNNIT to a WHYDUNNIT or rather WHAT’S HAPPENING.

In toto, this is a arithmetically correct, i.e. no loose ends, work of crime fiction, which is fast and pulpy. Although I enjoy reading Coben’s Myron Bolitar novels more, as they have Myron in them, I nonetheless enjoyed reading this one too. I guess others would enjoy it too, if they are not searching for detailed psychology analysis, or exquisite writing style and impeccable language.

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Monday, 12 August 2013

The Monkey's Raincoat (Elvis Cole, #1)The Monkey's Raincoat by Robert Crais
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Monkey’s Raincoat is the debut effort by much celebrated American crime novelist Robert Crais. The novel features his protagonist; Vietnam Vet turned Private Investigator, Elvis Cole and his business partner and sidekick Joe Pike.

The novel starts with Ellen Lang, who comes to Crais’ office asking for his help in finding out her husband Mort and their son Perry. Mort was supposed to pick up Perry from school, but neither the husband nor the kid ever reached home. Crais’ writing style baffled me. Frankly speaking, the over-the-top quirky dialogues were not helping me. They seemed unreal and glib. Reading them made me feel that Crais and Cole were both trying too hard.

The plot was not much on the suspense quotient. By 3/4th of the book the plot ceases to have any suspense left in it. But, Crais’ managed to portray Ellen Lang’s troubles and her process of developing her self confidence in a credible manner. The action scene in the climax was good. It was good enough for me to read through the whole scene without skipping a single page.

All in all, a decent debut effort from a famous author. For me it wasn’t a Great Read but it didn’t disappoint me either.

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Saturday, 3 August 2013

Open Season (Joe Pickett, #1)Open Season by C.J. Box
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Open Season by C.J. Box, published in the year 2001, is the first in the series of crime fiction novels featuring the protagonist Joe Picket, a Game Warden in the Twelve Sleep County, Wyoming. The books opens with a prologue as Picket tries to stop a poacher. The events start piling up from the first chapter itself as the same poacher who Joe had confronted in the prologue is found dead and murdered in his backyard. The police after a routine investigation close the case, and handing over a culprit. But, Joe takes it personally, as the body was found in his own backyard, and apparently not satisfied with the result of the investigation starts to dig deeper into the case. As he digs deeper, he is confronted with the risk of losing the job he loves and thereby losing his family.

The book was nothing extraordinary, as in respect to the plot. This sort of crime novel has been written before and by the half of the book it becomes obvious as to the identity of the culprit. But, what made this one an enjoyable read was the setting. Most of the times a very exceptional thriller gets dull as it doesn’t get the required support from the setting. The setting fails to inject any sort of suspense or sense of adventure in to the plot. But, here wild Wyoming added the perfect amount of adventure quotient, to keep the reader moving on in a steady pace. For a city dweller like me, a crime novel based in the wild becomes much more than a regular crime thriller, it sort of turns into a thriller-cum-travelogue, as it happened here.

Joe Pickett is a family man, with the values in the right places. At times he may seem dull, but given the fact that this is the first book in the series, he comes out as a strong man, who supports his family, and despite all the luring stays true to his profession and values. He is shown in a much toned down human way. Although based in the wild, he is no Tarzan or Lone Ranger. He has emotions, he confesses to be a lousy shot, he even manages to lose his gun.

A well written book, with smooth dialogues, this will be enjoyed by anyone who wants to try a crime novel set outside the dreariness of a concrete jungle, and set in the lush green of the wild.

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Monday, 29 July 2013

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“And still there is space for books that defy categorisation, books such as Robert Galbraith's new The Cuckoo's Calling which embraces the best of traditional mystery fiction, private-eye pace and the kind of writing that reminds me why I love this genre.”
Val McDermid, The Guardian

Once a certain Sparkling author had recommended to his fans a book about a girl gone to some place. The book turned out to be a marriage manual, though somehow it was marketed as a thriller. After that incident I was very weary of famous writers recommending books, specially thrillers. But then I found Val McDermid speaking her mind on The Guardian, now this is an author I respect. She has her notes right most of the times she speaks, So, with her recommendation and edging from a friend of mine I decided to pick up one of the most talked about book on this year “The Cuckoo’s Calling” by Robert Galbraith.

What was the plot all about? Nothing fancy, it was about a distraught brother asking Cormoran Strike, the protagonist, to find out the truth behind his sister’s suicide, which according to him had a more sinister shade to it. Strike, limping, dumped by his fiancé, without a home and broke, finds his salvation in this case and his “GIRL”-wonder called Robin. And as McDermid put it so clearly in her essay in the Guardian, the story chugs forward smoothly embracing the best of traditional mystery fiction, private-eye pace and the kind of writing that reminds me why I, i.e, Me, love this genre.

The ending wont floor you, it’s not an ORIENT EXPRESS or a chilling Scandinavian Thriller which would either start your head spinning because of the twists or would make you feel sick because of the gore. Its simple, and its straight. And, this is something I enjoyed, for a first time novelist there is always urgency or rather a desire to write something that would twist the ending into something totally unexpected, and most of the time making it rather funny or boring. Galbraith hasn’t gone that way, rather he opted for an ending which although being somewhat expected, had that perfect amount of that “UNEXPECTATION” which made me say “Somewhere I suspected him as the culprit, but never really believed he could do it”. Now that’s good crime writing. Making the reader feel that he is an expert too, and in the same vein retaining that perfect amount of suspense just to prove him right and making him feel the pleasure of knowing the unexpected.

Cormoran Strike, he is unique, but with a little shade of Jack Reacher. Can’t help, can we?? After all they both were military police. He is gruff, he has failed in love and he is broke. He has a persecuting stepfather, and a cruel ex-girlfriend. He needs a case badly, and he gets one, but his salvation comes in another form. In form of ROBIN, his girl-wonder. NO love lost or romantic liaisons between them, she had just got engaged. I love these characters, and I love them more when they triumph against all odds to show that not only its possible to win under any circumstances, but it’s also that Crime Writing will always entertain me.

Lastly, I am frightened, will this be the only strike of Cormoran we will ever get? After all, the writer will be busy filling up casual vacancies left by untimely death. But then again, she won’t have to spend time on her magical pursuits, now that the boys and girls have grown up and those snakes and monsters have been killed. So, I can lay back and feel the afterglow of a great session with a good-ole type crime novel, and safely feel that this is not the end, and that Robert Galbraith though being angry at his real name being revealed will surely pick up the pen to strike us again.

1. I guess this is what happens when the following equation is laid down:
Sue Grafton(Private Investigator) + Lee Child(Military Police) + J.K. Rowling(?????) = Robert Galbraith.

2. I never wasted a word on the writing style of the author. Cause neither I am an expert on writing style, nor I have the credibility to question Rowling’s style of writing. But, if you still want to judge how she writes, read her Harry Potter books, or get yourself a copy of Casual Vacancy.

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Saturday, 22 June 2013

Melancholy Baby (Sunny Randall, #4)Melancholy Baby by Robert B. Parker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sunny Randall is no Kinsey Millhone, but thankfully she is no Crodellia Gray either. So, even thought she might not get herself a permanent place in the female Fictional Gumshoe Hall of Fame, but she would definitely not earn a place for all the wrong reasons, like some of her counterparts.

Melacncholy Baby by Robert B. Parker, featuring Sunny Randall, a private detective, starts when she is approached by a girl, who wants to find her biological parents. The girl, Sarah Markham, is convinced that the couple, who had raised her, was not her bio-parents, and that she was adopted.

The book was short, and the plot, not being too complicated or over the top, was tight. Left on its own the plot accounts for 70% of the total pages in the book. The other 30% belonged to Sunny’s personal problems. Her divorce and its aftermath, and her decision of taking help of a psychiatrist. Though not related to the main plot, these pages gelled nicely with the investigation and eventually added more credibility to the character of Sunny Randall.

Though not as famous as Parker’s other creation, the Spenser novels, this book evolved as a fast and uncomplicated read.

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Thursday, 13 June 2013

Don't Look BackDon't Look Back by Karin Fossum
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

DONT LOOK BACK by Karin Fossum is the second book in the series featuring Inspector Konrad Sejer of Oslo, Norway. Although this happened to be the first book to be translated into English.

The book opens with an ongoing search for a missing 6 year old girl called Ragnhild, which later develops into a murder investigation of a teenage female victim. Whenever I read a Nordic Crime novel, I tend to expect a certain degree of violence and gore. But, surprisingly this book was very low on the count of brutality. Yes, the crime shown was brutal, yes, the motive or the event leading to the crime was brutal and chilling, but the amount of violence used to portray the coldness of the crime was negligible. In a way it was good, as at times, excessive violence bores me. But, creating an atmosphere of fear through words is what suits me the most, because seldom these situations described, becomes boring.

Instead what Fossum used is her very potent mastery over words, and the local ambiance of cold Norway. She is a cunning writer, no doubt. The book as mentioned earlier began with a 6 year old girl getting into a van driven by an unknown man. This man is speaking in riddles, and he is taking the girl to his house. I immediately sat up and felt that something is wrong; I was convinced that this one is going to be a crime related to that child. But, the writer used her mastery to create tension and then twist that tension into the direction of the actual crime i.e. the murder of another teenage woman. For the first few chapters she let the readers believe that the crime was going in a certain direction, only to add the much delicious twist on the way.

Konrad Sejer reminds me of Reg Wexford. He is a family man, a widower actually, spending his days with his dogs. He might not be as enigmatic as Morse or Wallander, but he has a certain calmness which makes him a distinct force in the world of fictional crime fighters. He is a normal policeman, who is effected by his victims, but at the end of the day takes up policing as his profession and not a vocation.

I enjoyed this book, there was no reason to feel otherwise. And I suppose any crime fiction enthusiast would enjoy this book too.

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Friday, 17 May 2013

A Share In Death (Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James, #1)A Share In Death by Deborah Crombie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“I realized that if I didn’t wake the next morning, no one would miss me”

There are times when I search for a murder mystery, where the crime will take place in a small village; the suspect pool will be restricted to a certain number of people. The detection would be done by an amateur sleuth, with the local police made to look like bumbling fools. And, the plot shouldn’t be too filmsy, although far from being gory or violent, it must be strong with a nice dose of twist. In short something in the style of Agatha Christie or Margery Allingham.

Deborah Crombie’s first book, “A SHARE IN DEAH” featuring the duo of Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Sergeant Gemma James, had all the above mentioned points, except the amateur detective solving the crime. But since Kincaid was a Scotland Yard man, and the murder fell outside his jurisdiction, he unofficially became the amateur sleuth in the plot. The murder took place in a hotel set in a Yorkshire village; the suspect pool was limited. The local police was led by a foul mouthed no-good inspector and the amount of blood and gore was nil. The plot was a typical whodunit. Highly enjoyable and satisfying. The length and the pace suited the book fine; and the psychological elements if present were mercifully negligible, and if present I failed to notice it.

Duncan Kincaid, is a gentleman detective. No cuss words, no losing temper, and being a bachelor he also had the tendency of being infatuated with the female characters he meets (a sense of déjà vu leading to Inspector Morse, maybe!!). He as an easy going charm and a sense of humor which makes him very difficult to not like. Sergeant Gemma James, a single mother, though being a sidekick and being introduced late into the book, has a personality of her own. She is not just a sidekick lingering in the shadows of the main protagonist, a fact supported by Kincaid, when he talks about and appreciates her ability as a policewoman. And, he is a bachelor, she is a single mother, so definitely something will brew in the next installments between these two.

A highly enjoyable mystery, recommended to any crime fiction reader who likes British style whodunits.

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Thursday, 16 May 2013

Back Spin (Myron Bolitar, #4)Back Spin by Harlan Coben
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Myron Bolitar is approached by an old man to help his daughter and son-in-law, both of them ace golfers, to locate their missing son. And, in return Myron’s Company is promised a deal with the husband-wife duo. Myron goes on his own to locate the missing child as his friend Win won’t help him on the case, and manages to recover the child and in the process opens up a can full of lies, both from the past and present.

With each passing book, I am gradually starting to regard Bolitar as one of my most favorite amateur sleuth. Why?
1. In today’s world of police procedurals and private investigators, Myron still holds on the old school charm of being an amateur sleuth.
2. He is normal. He has his sorrows but that doesn’t make him a cynic. Myron solves crime because he has to. He falls in love, he has his heartbreaks and infatuations, and all of these makes him a normal guy and not a booze addict clichéd cop, who doesn’t shave and has a streak of brilliance in him.

Coming back to the book, the plot was tight. For the first time 3/4th part, the plot moves in a steady pace. Though there are few adrenaline rush moments, but it never gets boring. The pace picks up in the last ¼th of the book, where the twists and turns starts coming up hard and fast.

A highly enjoyable and fast read, this book is recommended to anyone who wants to read thrillers featuring amateur sleuths, which is not over the top.

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Sunday, 12 May 2013

Slash And Burn (Dr. Siri Paiboun, #8)Slash And Burn by Colin Cotterill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“A good communist is like a tree. He stands firm but knows how to bend in a strong wind. He is fertile but gladly gives up his nuts to less fortunate creatures”

Slash and Burn, the eighth installment of the Dr.Siri mysteries, starts off when an American delegation led by Major Potter visits Laos, starting a joint operation to search for an American helicopter pilot who was lost during the war. Although presumed dead, a photograph delivered to the pilot’s dad, an American senator showed that he was still alive. Dr.Siri is asked to join the expedition. Then as a member of the team dies under unnatural circumstances, Dr.Siri smells foul and starts to investigate his death.

This was my first Colin Cotterill book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Very few writers have the talent of combing crime writing with humor i.e. write a crime novel which would not only be a page turner but would also make the reader laugh. The only name that comes to mind is that of the late John Mortimer, who along with his legendary creation Horace Rumpole created the same potent mixture of crime and humor, just as Cotterill did with his Dr.Siri mysteries.

Dr.Siri is one of a kind. He is an old pathologist who is fighting for his retirement. He is also an amateur sleuth in a Communist country, who doesn’t gives a damn about what the politburo might think about his comments towards Communism. Matching his wit for their own, is his wife Madam Geung, the noodle shop owner, and his friend Civlai, an ex-politburo member and Auntie Bpoo a transgender and a cross dresser, who also is an amateur poet. The plot without being anything extraordinary was twisted, and it also incorporated the events of the helicopter crash in a foolproof manner. The amount of blood and gore was low, rather nil, and the pace was sedate.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would recommend it to every crime fiction reader. Because I realized after finishing, that if you haven’t encountered Dr.Siri, your Crime Fiction experience isn’t complete.

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Saturday, 11 May 2013

Neither Here Nor There: Travels in EuropeNeither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe by Bill Bryson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Don’t f*** with me. I’m a guy who knows his maps”

When Bill Bryson travels, we the readers start laughing. Whether its Australia, USA or for that matter any country in the world his antics as a traveler makes us laugh. It was no different this time. ‘Neither Here Nor There’, takes us with the author on a tour of Europe. Bryson acts as the perfect guide, as he shows us the Europe which is far different from the stereotype view reserved for the continent.

Bryson gets robbed on this tour, he is asked to tell his weight, height and complexion while trying to claim his money back. He is charged for a glass of orange juice which was pink in color and which he never drank. He was also charged for a shower cap, which he obviously never used. He rode on an elevator that took two days to reach the fifth floor, while motorists in Paris purposely tried to kill him. And, amidst these all heartfelt tragedies Mr. Bryson still managed to come out live, write the book and made me hysterical with laughter, and informed me that all was not well with Europe.

One small glitch remained though. The humor quotient of the book, according to me, was unevenly distributed. In the first half of the book there is hardly a page, where I didn’t experience belly ache caused due to laughing while reading. Such moments became far spaced and less frequent in the second half of the book. But as the book was small, and the author was Bill Bryson, the whole experience of reading never became boring. Bill Bryson knows what he is doing. He knows how to travel, he knows how to write, but most importantly, he knows how to entertain his readers and make them laugh.

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Friday, 10 May 2013

Jar CityJar City by Arnaldur Indriðason
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I guess only the Scandinavian writers can come up with a crime and a subplot as bizarre as this. And the most wonderful part of the whole setup is that they make it look and sound so normal. Which is not at all normal, as these countries in which the books are set, in this case Iceland, has the lowest crime rates in the planet. Maybe this is their way of fantasising things and incidents which might never happen in reality, in their country.

But, real or no real, JAR CITY shot right up to the top as one of my favourite books. Inspector Erlendur of Reykjavík is called up to investigate the death of an old man, and pinned on his dead body is a note. Further investigation brings out the fact that this guy was no angel, and that he was involved in a rape incident almost 30 years ago. The plot was not that twisted, or extraordinary, but what stood out was the brutality of the crime. The incident that led to the main murder, and the fallout of that incident was cold and unpleasant. But that’s the reason I read these books. If they repelled me I would have read a cozy mystery instead!!

The best part of the book has to be the setting and the atmosphere surrounding the case. Now, I stay in India, and Iceland only appeared as a name in my geography books when I was in school. To have a book which has a murder investigation set there, was more that I could have asked for. The weather, the ambiance perfectly synced up with the plot. The whole offering was cold and gloomy. The main character of Inspector Erlendur is a bit of a stereotype fictional policeman. Divorced, with both his son and daughter being addicts, he finds solace in his job.

Recommended to anyone who loves cold and disturbing murder mysteries. Others stay away from this, or for that matter any Nordic Crime fiction.

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Thursday, 9 May 2013

Death and the Joyful Woman (Felse, #2)Death and the Joyful Woman by Ellis Peters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was the second instalment of the George Felse series written by Ellis Peters. Peters is known and appreciated all over the world for her medieval mysteries featuring Brother Cadfael. So, when I realised that she had also written another series featuring Inspector George Felse, I immediately picked up the book and started reading it.

The plot can be summed up in a single line. A wealthy man, not liked by much of the village, gets murdered and everybody who were somehow related to him, personally or professionally, becomes a suspect. And this single line plot was my favourite, as I am a huge fan of Golden Age Mysteries, where murders are committed and the suspect is found in from a closed pool of suspects.

Inspector George Felse is a typical English gentleman detective. I admired this man. Though overshadowed by Cadfael in terms of popularity, Felse comes around as a normal human being for whom crime solving is just a part of the job. In a way George Felse and his family reminded me of another British detective, Ruth Rendell’s Inspector Wexford.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves reading simple whodunits, without much blood and gore.

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Saturday, 20 April 2013

Up CountryUp Country by Nelson DeMille
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“The dead, if they could speak, would tell you why they died, but the living have no answers”

“I make jokes when I’m stressed, and when I sense danger..”


After a gap of almost 4 months, I once again read a political thriller. The last one I had read was “Key to Rebecca” by Ken Follett. But, UP COUNTRY was nothing like it. Moreover, just like Key.., this one would also stay as one of my favourite books of all time.

The plot starts where ex-military CID, Paul Brenner is asked to return to Vietnam, as a favour and to investigate a murder which took place during the Vietnam War. Both, the murderer and the victim were American soldiers, and the witness to the crime was a Viet Cong soldier. Brenner is asked to locate this VC, who currently lives in North Vietnam, to help the investigators to bring justice to the guilty.

Standard stereotype Vietnam veteran plot. But, once I started reading, I realised that whatever I was reading was anything but “STANDARD”. Brenner starts his journey, and starts relieving the war, which he had participated in, almost 30 years ago. Seldom had I read such an absorbing and heartfelt description, of not only the war, but also the emotions a soldier had to go through. Unlike other novels I had read which were somehow connected to Vietnam War, this book provided me with an unusual POV of a soldier. Mr.DeMille was himself a Viet-Vet. So, it’s safe to assume that a lot of emotions portrayed in the book were personally experienced by DeMille himself. As Brenner starts recounting the incidents one by one, or come face to face with the horrors of the war, of what it could do and what it did do to the people who tried to kill one another. Everyone came out, those who could, of the war with a mental and physical scar that would never heal. As once Brenner remarks that a North Vietnamese in modern day would die with an American but would never share the table with a South Vietnamese. Such was the hatred that got imbibed.

The book was a bit low on the thrill quotient. But, then again the memories of Brenner, his conflicting emotions about his female escort, Susan Webber, the country Vietnam were more than enough to hold on to my attention.

Summing up, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Took some time to complete it, but given the fact that the book was 867 pages long and that I didn’t skip a single page. Definitely one of the most original and heartfelt book written about the Vietnam War, where the writer was himself a Veteran. The book presented us with a heartfelt account of the war through the hero, another Viet Vet.

P.S. Literary snobs, who shout that crime fiction is all pulpy and fake, should read this book. Mr.DeMille showed everyone that you don’t have to be a Booker shortlist author to write a heart wrenching account of a sad incident of which he was a part of. All you need is a little bit of courage and desire to tell a story.

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Monday, 8 April 2013

61 Hours (Jack Reacher, #14)61 Hours by Lee Child
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The 14th installment of the Jack Reacher series written by Lee Child finds Reacher, on a bus with a group of elderly tourists when the bus crashes midway and leaves the passengers stranded in the city of Bolton, which is experiencing heavy snowfall and expecting a big storm. Amidst this foul weather the police department of the city is also trying to protect one of its citizens, an elderly lady who is a material witness in an important case involving drug trafficking. Jack Reacher gets involved and by the turn of the events finds himself helping the police in guarding the witness.

The plot though not reaching the heights of KILLING FLOOR or ONE SHOT, is one of the best to come out of Child’s pen. It had the army, the air force, the local police, unknown contract killers, mysterious buildings in the middle of nowhere and Jack Reacher. And, also the action scenes in this book were much shorter as compared to other novels. And, ever present was the trademark Lee Child speed. So, nothing could go wrong and nothing did go wrong. One unique factor of this book was that somewhere down the line it became a whodunit. As opposed to other Jack Reacher thrillers, where the plot is thrown open and the culprits are often introduced in the latter half of the book, in this one it was purely evident that the culprit was among a pre-determined group of suspects and that there was no chance of this being an outside job.

But, one down point was the name of the book. The title made it look like something was due to happen after 61 hours. But, the climax took place much after the designated 61 hours were over. This book could have been a 5 star book, had there not been the name fiasco. So, 4 stars.
P.S. Another unique point, Reacher didn’t sleep with anyone in this book.

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Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Compulsion (Alex Delaware #22)Compulsion by Jonathan Kellerman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Hey stuff happens. Then it un-happens. I’m staying positive”

I had never read a Jonathan Kellerman book before. So, Compulsion was my first. And, though I won’t be searching for another book written by him eagerly, I won’t turn down one either, if I happen to encounter it.

This book featured the protagonist duo of policeman Milo Sturgis and psychiatrist Alex Delaware. The character of Sturgis reminded me of Reginald Hill’s creation Andrew Dalziel. Not only were they both fat, but Sturgis’ style of dialogues were similar too. But the character of Delaware seemed a bit bland to me. I always felt that somehow his characterization was much suited for a side-role as opposed to the leading role. But, maybe reading a few more books would open up his character more and make me think otherwise.

The plot, which is about three interconnected crimes, was neither a high-flyer nor did it make me yawn. It had its ups and downs. The starting was well paced, leading up to the double crimes, then the speed dropped, eventually to pick up again in the finishing chapters. But, don’t expect a twist, as the plot and the clues provided weren’t of the type where a twist could be introduced and made to fit in perfectly.

So, summing up, I enjoyed the book as I would do with any normal thriller, but I never felt ecstatic about it. It never promised me high hopes, so it did not leave me disappointed.

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Saturday, 30 March 2013

Darkest Fear (Myron Bolitar, #7)Darkest Fear by Harlan Coben
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I hereby officially declare Harlan Coben as my favorite writer(among the ones who are still writing). When I pick up one of his books I stay rest assured that come what may I am picking up a book which won’t disappoint me. And he delivers. Be his standalones or his Myron Bolitar series.

Myron is approached by his ex-girlfriend to find a missing bone marrow donor. Emily’s son(of whom Myron is the biological father) is suffering from a disease for which he needs a bone marrow transplant. So, Myron with the help of Win and Esperanza goes off in search for the missing donor, and in the process clears up an old case involving a serial killer.

Nothing much to write except that I enjoyed the book. It was right up my comfortable zone of having a amateur detective and a plot which is VERY twisted. I loved the writing style and the humor which came with every Bolitar book. So, anyone who loves fast paced mysteries with a dose of twist in the end would love this too.

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Saturday, 23 March 2013

You Belong To MeYou Belong To Me by Mary Higgins Clark

Have you ever read more than one MHC book before this? You have. Well then don’t bother with this one, because you will find nothing new and nothing remotely interesting in it.

What has this book got? Upper class lonely women getting whacked by upper class psycho male, while travelling on upper class ocean liners. Clichéd psychiatrist trying to solve cases which have no connection with her; clichéd philanthropist trying to hit on clichéd psychiatrist in a boring clichéd way. Plot going nowhere as a clichéd serial killer tries to find his fifth and final victim, as he talks to himself and roams the streets all alone. Why fifth shall be the final?? I have no idea. Maybe the reason was somewhere in the later part of the book but I never bothered finishing it.

Four suspects were given to us. All upper class people. It seems according to MHC only rich people kills and gets killed.
1. A handsome bachelor “great guy” philanthropist.
2. A widower psychiatrist who has secret travels to hide.
3. A dishonest lawyer who has secrets to hide.
4. An architect who has temper and jealousy issues.

Just use the MHC formula, and you will get the murderer from this review alone. It’s no rocket science. Motive??? Well he is a serial killer in a clichéd book, so he must have had an abusive step-mother, who was bad and that’s the reason he kills women as he feels by killing them he is killing his step mother.

P.S. I bought this book. And I have another MHC still to read. I guess this is how GOD pays back for our sins!!!

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Friday, 22 March 2013

Without Fail (Jack Reacher, #6)Without Fail by Lee Child
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, Jack Reacher reads Fyodor Dostoevsky. But, unlike Fyodor, he admits that he doesn’t have the talent for words. So, he expresses his feelings towards the bad guys through the way, in which he has talent i.e. bashing them up. And, thats the reason I like Jack more than Fyodor(not that I have read any of his books), because today a punch, as it seems makes more impact than the pen.

Now, the book. Reacher is in Atlanta with a couple of old blues musician, when his deceased brother’s ex-fiancé comes up to him and asks him to help her with the job of protecting the Vice-President of USA. He agrees, and when Reacher agrees to some job, bodies are bound to fall all around him, and they fell.

I have read only 4 Reacher novels till date and only once I encountered him engaged in an investigation officially, that was in THE ENEMY and it was in this book. Did I like it? No, I didn’t. The maverick Jack Reacher is a far more enjoyable to read, than a “GOVT-EMPLOYED” Reacher. And, moreover, in most Reacher books I have read, the plot involves a conspiracy into which he stumbles, but not his one. Here it was much more of a pseudo-cop whodunit plot, where he is asked and paid for his job. He even wears a suit in this book. Come what may, Reacher wearing a suit is as bad as Tom Cruise as and in Jack Reacher. No I guess the Cruise debacle was worse.

Lee Child is a great action thriller writer but he is not Agatha Christie. He packs punches whenever and wherever needed. But, he doesn’t have the twists needed for a whodunit. What he has is enough for his action novels, but sadly wasn’t enough for this one.

But, guess what his name is Lee Child and he knows how to keep the reader glued to the pages. Fast pace, great action and catchy dialogues, and a good plot, he packs them all. He did it with this book too, and did it in a way which overshadowed the misgivings I had. And as a result I enjoyed reading it. And, I always think highly of writer who entertain, be it Lee or Fyodor.

P.S. Jack Reacher is a man’s man. If not for anything else he will stay at the top of my fictional hero list, just because he loves the Blues. Anyone who loves Blues is the man.

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Wednesday, 20 March 2013

No Place Like HomeNo Place Like Home by Mary Higgins Clark
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Liar liar pants on fire”

This was the theme of “No place Like Home” by Mary Higgins Clark. If you lie once, you will need other lies to corroborate that initial lie. So, don’t lie and your life wouldn’t become like the plot of this book.

Liza Barton, killed her mother while trying to save her from her husband, when she was young. Then she was acquitted, she changed her name to Celia Kellogg, and moved on. Only to find her own husband no.2 gifting her the same house where she killed her mother. As she starts living there, bodies start falling all around her and she is dragged back to the horrors of her childhood.

Now this one was done in the typical MHC style. Action from first page, cliff hanging chapter endings, damsel in distress, with knight in shining armour everything was there. But, the problem with her style is that once you have read a few of her books, you can easily guess as to what might happen with the book you are reading. As it was, I guessed the identity of the main culprit within the first few chapters.

But, that’s not the point. The point is that how the culprit was unmasked. The process, the clues. The deduction and the chase. These makes the book memorable for me. And, MHC in most of her books describes the “HOWCATCHEM” part in a way that keeps the reader hooked and guessing. But, sadly that was not the case here. Here the plot was moving and suddenly everyone started connecting the dots and without a moment’s notice the culprit was spotted. I thoroughly missed the build up, the tension that comes from the bit by bit revealing of the clues, leading up to the grand showdown.

And, somehow I felt the book was slow. The pace typical of a MHC thriller was missing. Summing up, this was just an average thriller from a more than average writer.

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Sunday, 17 March 2013

Nothing to Lose (Jack Reacher, #12)Nothing to Lose by Lee Child
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A thriller is a kind of book which is meant to thrill the reader. So, when Lee Child sits down and writes a book I am rest assured that if not anything else that the book will thrill me. And, it does, not just me, but also the million fans of Child all over the world.

This book thrilled me, but other than that I can’t say that it did much else. Recaher while drifting enters a town called Despair. No sooner had he entered the town than he finds himself being thrown away out of it, slapped with a vagrancy charge. Not before he had managed to break one of the town deputy’s noses. Reacher doesn’t like getting pushed, so he goes back into the town and then, as a result of Lee Child style, all hell breaks loose with Reacher standing in path of the impending doom, with a lady as the co-warrior.

Now here I guess, lays the biggest flaw of the book. The motive wasn’t strong enough for Reacher to do all the things he did after he was thrown out of the town for the first time. Ok, granted that he is a one-man-army, and he doesn’t like to be pushed around but is it a motive strong enough to snoop around in a town where he is not wanted?? No matter what is hidden there, waiting to be busted or discovered.

Other than this single yet strong flaw, everything was totally Lee Child style. Dialogues, and the pace of the book, everything. He really knows how to build suspense, in every book he writes he builds up the tension from page one, making the reader guess and anticipate the impending doom. Sometimes the ending matches the suspense created earlier; sometimes it doesn’t, as was the case with this book. But, good ending or not, the reading experience is always top grade. Breezing through the pages never poses a problem for me. But, the book could have been 100 pages shorter cutting the pages filled with action sequences and boring travelogue.

Summing up, this book is a light read. Nothing much to expect and definitely not one of Child’s better efforts. Recommended only for hardcore Reacher fans, other readers can happily skip this one.

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Friday, 15 March 2013

Dame Agatha Christie.

I started reading her books, borrowing them from my school library. Murder On the Links it was. The year was 1997. My first Christie. I can safely say I did not like it. Who was this pompous silly moustached Belgian??? Why does he have to be so funny??? I never did understand why my seniors were so enamoured by this little Belgian with an egg shaped head, always so sure of himself and his little grey cells. So, I happily went back to my dose of comics featuring yet another Belgian, Tintin.

2004 and I started my graduation course, and I started searching for something interesting to read. And I came up face to face with Agatha Christie again. I hadn’t forgotten the last time, yet I took a chance and bought the book. MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS it was. And the rest as they say is “STILL CONTINUING”.

Almost a decade has gone by, yet my admiration for Dame Christie has grown, by unhealthy proportions. Marple, Poirot, Parker Pyne, Tommy and Tuppence, her standalones, I have read re-read them time and time again, yet I am never bored.

And, then came the movies and the TV series. Oh, what joy it was to finally see Poirot and Marple in flesh albeit inside the idiot box. But, the stories became alive, gave a new dimension to my obsession. They say Ustinov wasn’t fit as Poirot??? I beg to differ. Everyone from Finney, to Ustinov and off course Suchet added color to the enigmatic Poirot. The same can be said about Marple. Joan Hickson to Geraldine McEwan and now Julia McKenzie, everyone has added their own colour to the already colourful Miss Jane Marple.

Now I read only thrillers. Nothing else. How can I? Christie showed me that in detective fiction, there is hidden the greatest emotions of a human being. Greed, anger, lust, jealousy drive normal people into taking away lives, and then comes the NEMESIS, in guise of a moustached Belgian or a old British lady and shows us that come what may the good always triumphs over the evil. Isn’t that, what we all have been taught from our childhood?

P.S. PD James in one of her essays said that Christie wasn’t as good a writer as Marsh, Sayers or Allingham. I beg to differ, Agatha Christie was, is and will remain the GREATEST of the four QUEEN of Golden Age Crime.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Do Not Exceed The Stated DoseDo Not Exceed The Stated Dose by Peter Lovesey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In a foreword to this collection of short stories, Peter Lovesey wrote that he doesn’t care much about the comfort of the reader. And, that if the reader feels comfortable while reading the stories he would assume that he has failed as a writer. Isn’t that a pretty insensitive thing to say for a writer? I guess it is.

But, then I wonder, why all writers aren’t as insensitive as him. I would love if every writer would just throw away all the worries regarding the reader’s comfort and write stories that would push the reader to the edge of their seat, increase their heartbeat, and make them uncomfortable. I wouldn’t even mind if I had a heart attack while reading it. At least I would die happy, knowing that I died because I was reading a thrilling book which made me perspire, increased my heartbeat and led me to my demise.

Do Not Exceed The Stated Dose, is a collection of fourteen short stories and one novella. Short stories are a different ballgame. Not only there is a restriction on the number of words but also an added responsibility of providing a twist. So, naturally not every writer is not capable or rather manages to write good crime short stories. Apparently Peter Lovesey does.

The stories in this book were delicately short, cunningly clever and dangerously twisted. And, not only there were crime stories, but there were also a couple of stories with distinct supernatural element in them. And, among all the stories only 3 could be said to be not up to the mark. Not that they were not good, but they were not as exciting as the others.

A highly enjoyable book recommended to everyone who wants to take a break from reading novels and would be in a mood for going for short stories.

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Wednesday, 13 March 2013

7th Heaven (Women's Murder Club, #7)7th Heaven by James Patterson
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Once upon a time James Patterson used to be a good writer, and now all those times seem to be stuff of legend, because what he manufactures nowadays, this can hardly be called writing, is too plastic, bland, unreal and BAD to be taken seriously. This book can be singularly called the worst book I have read in the past 15 months. In contention for the title were other Patterson novels like Sail and the 5th Horseman.

No plot, no characters to like this book was the perfect BAD CRIME NOVEL. When I had first read a Patterson, I thought he was one of the greatest. But, within a couple of readings I caught on to his style or trick, and could easily predict what is going to happen. He starts with two parallel plots, and then starts jumping back and forth between the two, and in the end like a dumb student who somehow just wants to finish his mathematics question, he finishes the book. Just like that!!!

Add to that, silly protagonists. The Women Murder club!!! How clichéd can this get. An all girl band trying to right the wrong. Sometimes I do wonder what happened to Marple and Millhone, but going by the sales of Patterson’s books it is evident that people not only read his books but like them too.

Just stay away from this book. Don’t read it. Stay away from James Patterson, because he gives crime fiction a bad name. And, don’t buy his books then you will have to read them!! Just like me, as I still have two of his books on my to-read shelf, which I had bought!!! Sigh!!!

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Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Veiled OneVeiled One by Ruth Rendell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I started The Veiled One with some apprehension. I am not a big fan of psychological mysteries, recently biting the dust after reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, which was high on psychology and very low on twists and thrill. And, as Rendell is known for her psychological mysteries, more for her ‘why-done-it’ than the ‘who-done-it’, I started this book cautiously, not sure what to expect. But, by the end, I was panting, out of breath, and trying to tell everyone that what a great crime novel I had just finished.

I can spare only one line for the plot, anything more would take away the pleasure of the discovery of the motive or the culprit. A woman is found garrotted to death in a shopping mall car park, and Wexford along with Burden is called upon to investigate the death.

The characters were richly drawn. Rendell had spent a lot of words on her characters. Even those with small parts were given an identity of their own. But, she did it in such a way that they never obstructed the flow of the plot. In fact, they became a part of the main plot. It was almost that if the reader didn’t go through these characterisations, the mystery would remain incomplete.

The plot, as well as the book started off at a moderate speed. But, as the book progressed, especially after 3/4th had gone by, I was disappointed and was ready to give the book a 2 star rating. But, then the twists started coming, hard and fast, and I was hooked. I was hooked and I had decided to give the book a minimum of 5 stars.

A highly enjoyable book. Highly recommended to any reader who loves a traditional British mystery with a dose of twist, and a gentleman detective with a sidekick, present to solve the case.

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Miss Melville ReturnsMiss Melville Returns by Evelyn E. Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Miss Melville Returns
Evelyn E. Smith
3.5 stars

Good cozy mystery in the style of old school Golden Age crime fiction. This book was the second in the series of crime novels featuring Susan Melville, a paid assassin turned painter.
The plot was good, nothing great but nothing to want to stop reading. In a way, it never offered much and made me satisfied with what it actually gave back. The pace of the book was fast, the clues were generously provided and the red herrings were present where they would have mattered most.
The ending could have been better. Taking into the fact that the plot showed promise of a good ending. The culprit at the end confessed the crime, which was a damper. The way in which Miss Melville was connecting the dots and creating the final picture, it would have been better had she been the one to figure it all out.
All in all, an enjoyable read. Recommended, though not highly, to anyone who likes good mysteries, numerous characters, less blood and gore and little twists i.e. cozy mystery lovers.

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Monday, 11 March 2013

Gillian Flynn
2.5 stars

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again"

Gillian Flynn is the new John Le Carre of my reading life. Just like Le Carre novel, when I finish them, I am left with a strange feeling of confusion. Neither do I hate the book; like I hate a PD James novel, nor do I worship it, as I would in case of a Lee Child novel. I feel confused as to why the books are considered as gems and master pieces of their genre. Neither do I find any outright negative points to say otherwise, nor do I stumble upon any positive ones to go GA-GA over it. SO, I get confused, did I miss any points or a twist? Something which would have tilted my opinion favourably. I try hard to think back, but I find nothing. So, confused I try to answer a simple question,
“Why is such an ordinary book talked about in a way, as if, it is the best book of the century??”

Back to GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn. And, I am confused. What is the big deal with this book?? Has no one read the short story “Trial and Error” by Jeffery Archer??? Well if they had, I guess like me they, they would all understand what’s gonna happen, just from reading the blurb. The plot as it is, is simple, the ending a bit over-the-top. But, this is no “Murder of Roger Ackroyd” where one chapter would define the term TWIST in context of crime fiction. Nothing has been written in this book, that hadn’t been written before, in a better way!!

So, what was the best part of the book for me? The part where the writer  honestly doles out on true scene after another to show us how why marriage is really a GAMBLE and how bad it can really get if a wrong call is made. This book could have been well marketed as “The book which will help you to decide whether or not to marry”. One read, and the unmarried reader would have surely made up his/her mind.

The main characters were chillingly real and close to the reader. We all know real people with amazing similarity to the main characters of Nick and Amy. It’s almost as if the whole thing described in the book could happen to us, to me. I for sure knew two Amy-s in my lifetime, and I can honestly admit that some of Nick’s habits were similar to me. These characters were rally frighteningly real.

This book was an enjoyable read, but this was not a book which I would remember reading for the right reasons i.e. the plot, the characters and the twists. I would rather remember it as a book, which didn’t match up to the hype surrounding it.

I really wanted this book to be THE BOOK, which I would read and wouldn’t be able to wait until I had discussed it with someone. But, it didn’t happen that way. It was just another more than average thriller albeit with very real characters but a thin and simple plot, and with a female lead called Amy whose portrayal reminded me of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca!!