Wednesday, 26 March 2014

In A True LightIn A True Light by John Harvey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

IN A TRUE LIGHT by John Harvey is a standalone thriller from the writer who is better known for his series of jazz influenced police procedurals featuring Detective Inspector Charlie Resnick . Sloane, a painter, after being released from prison, where he spent time in relation to a forgery case, gets called to Italy to meet his former partner, a famous painter herself. There he is informed that he has a daughter, and that it’s his partners last wish(she is dying of cancer) that he finds that daughter, who has gone off to USA, and has no contact whatsoever with the mother, and tells her that her mother is dead, and that Sloane is her father. He agrees, and finds out that the daughter in question is a singer, and she has hooked up with a shady person called Delaney, with mob connections and a violent streak which makes him aggressive towards women.

The plot was believable, though it was a bit too short. The sequence of the events were well placed and helped in the continuity of the book, but they were in my opinion a bit too short and always felt like a summary of a long scene. But, that didn’t stop the book from being fast. I normally have an aversion towards crime novels where the outcome is known from the first page. Either these books are filled with over detailing, which in my opinion is way of compensating the lack of plot and twist on part of the author, or they are so obvious that trudging through them becomes an ordeal. But in this case, though it felt a bit hurried, the book never felt being over detailed nor was it too obvious to make me yawn.

Coming to the characters, Sloane was believable, and got the required number pages needed to show that behind the bohemian facade he is a caring man. Delaney was frightening, but in a comic way, not funny but it felt that he came out of a comic book where the villains are pretty scary but are never well developed as characters. He needed a few more pages dedicated to his character. Same with Connie, the daughter. Apart from being a jazz singer, and a daughter disconnected with her mother, she remains undeveloped as a character. Again a few extra pages wouldn’t have hurt.

But lastly, a short, fast crime novel filled with a bit underdeveloped characters is far better than an over detailed, richly characterised yet a boring one.

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Friday, 21 March 2014

Field of Blood (Paddy Meehan, #1)Field of Blood by Denise Mina
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

THE FIELD OF BLOOD by Denise Mina is the first of the three book series featuring Paddy Meehan, an overweight female working in the city of Glasgow as a copyboy in a newspaper. The book is set in the 1980s, when a toddler called Brian Wilcox gets kidnapped and is found brutally murdered a few days hence. The police swiftly latches on to two 10 year old school students as the prime suspects. But, Paddy egged on by the sense of duty (as one of the suspects in a distant relative), and more importantly on discovering a link which the police overlooked, Paddy takes it upon herself to unearth the real criminal, as she gets confirmed that the police is working on putting the blame on the students thereby washing their hands off the case.

The author like many fellow Scottish Crime writers, Denise Mina used the city of Glasgow and its atmosphere along with the underlying tension between the Catholics and the Protestants to create a vivid background for the whole novel. But, still I can’t say that I am ecstatic about this book. My singular point is, this is Crime fiction and if the crime part along with the solve and motive falls flat, then the whole book falls flat. No amount of Glasgow or religious tension can save it, atleast in my eyes.

The plot was flimsy, along with the motive. The reason given as to why the kid got kidnapped was too bad to be taken seriously. The parents of the kid hardly get mentioned. The culprit before being nabbed got only a few paras of exposure thereby making him an unknown entity that falls out of the sky to be branded as criminal with conveniently placed clues. And then there were the, atleast 100 extra pages of a commentary on the real life crime featuring a man named Paddy Meehan. I still can’t get the point, as to why the author wanted this incident in the book, or more importantly why the editor saw that it’s important for the book. Other than providing inspiration to the protagonist Paddy Meehan, those pages served no other function.

Summing up, I give this book 2.5 out of 5 stars. Though heralded as the new Queen of Tartan noir, Denise Mina disappointed me with this book. The plot had potential, and the book with 150 pages short and a bit of twist in the plot could have been a better work of Crime writing.

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Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Looking For Rachel Wallace (Spenser, #6)Looking For Rachel Wallace by Robert B. Parker
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

LOOKING FOR RACHEL WALLACE by Robert B. Parker, found Spenser being asked by a publisher to play bodyguard duties to a feminist-lesbian-activist-writer who had started receiving threatening calls the moment her new book had hit the stands. Although as one would discover that those calls were warranted, as the writer in her book exposed many a corporations and people in high places being biased towards women, gay women in particular. Spenser takes up the job, and within the first few minutes starts having personality and verbal clashes with his client. He manages to hold on, only to be fired later, because he saved her from getting thrown out of a corporation premises by a couple of baddies who meant to throw her out for giving speeches to their female employees, which actually went against their policies. Rachel Wallace called Spenser a male chauvinist pig trying to work his way using his brute force, Spenser argued back that he was only doing his job. Spenser gets fired, goes home, only to learn later that Rachel Wallace has been kidnapped. Always the dutiful man, he goes to the police station and offers his services, and eventually manages to find out where Ms. Wallace is, and who was holding her.

Did I enjoy the book? No, I didn’t. Did I hate the book? No, I definitely didn’t either. So, why didn’t I enjoy? Well, for a piece of crime fiction this book had a plot which was low/too low on the suspense/mystery quotient. As much so, this one read like a police file on a kidnapping undertaken by an amateur, only to be solved within hours. The book in toto, had just one real suspect, and it was this person who turned out to be the kidnapper. Not really too captivating as a plot of crime writing. But, it could have been different. Robert B. Parker could have used the threats related to the book to disguise a more sinister motive behind the kidnapping. And presented with a criminal whose motive for the crime was totally different from what he wanted us the reader to believe it was i.e. the threats related to the book were just meant to be red herrings. Spenser would have ripped through that smoke screen to unveil the real criminal and the deeper darker plot. That would have been more Spenser-esque. But instead we got stuck with one terribly foolish criminal, a bad mouthed opinionated victim who got on my nerves with her whining about being victimized and ‘All MALE are pigs’ dogma who fires the only man who was good enough to protect her, and then gets kidnapped. Thank GOD for Spenser and his dialogues!!!

So, why did I like reading it? Well does anyone need a better reason than Spenser? The book had Spenser in it, so were his lines. No need for a better reason for liking the book. The omnibus edition I was reading had a caption which said “Before Reacher there was Spenser” which I totally disagreed with. Reacher is Reacher, and Spenser being Spenser is a class apart. I like Reacher, but I worship Spenser. At times the Lee Child man comes as too unbelievable to believe that all he says and does can make sense even as a work of fiction, but that’s not the case with Spenser. Every line, every action attributed to this man makes me believe that had there been a real man called Spenser, he would have been churning out the same lines as written in the pages.

And, lastly the pace. Yes the plot was bland, but the pace was too good to turn the book into a yawnathon. Every crime writer should take a lesson from this man as to how to write a book this fast. I did not enjoy ‘Promised Land’ either but even with that book the pace blew me apart. Time by time Robert B. Parker is becoming one of my favorite authors, and thank god I still have ‘Hush Money’ on my shelves ready to be read.

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Monday, 17 March 2014

The Circle (Inspector Henrietta Mallin, #1)The Circle by Peter Lovesey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Circle by Peter Lovesey takes place in the town of Chichester, where Bob Naylor, a parcel delivery man and an amateur poet egged by his daughter decides to join the local writers circle. The day he decides to attend one of the meetings to see for himself whether he is good enough to join the other writers, the chair gets arrested on the charges of setting fire to the house and murdering a publisher who was due to publish the chair’s upcoming book on unsolved real crimes, and was also the guest speaker at the circle’s meeting a few days ago. Taken by surprise by the turn of events the other members lead by an erotic poet, Thomasine O’Loughlin, Naylor gets elected as the group’s media manager, and the man who would lead this motley group of writers-cum-amateur sleuth in unmasking the real culprit in order to help the Chair from being wrongly prosecuted as the man behind the death of the publisher.

This book was a typical prototype of Golden Age mystery, albeit set in modern times. The plot as well as being fast, also had the set up where the victim, the suspects and the protagonist belongs to the same group of people. Lovesey, if he had wanted, could have introduced a culprit later in the book. But, as the other protagonist, Inspector Hen Malin remarked that just as in the Agatha Christie books where no criminal is ever introduced late into the plot, and that she loves reading the Dame’s novels, it was not very likely that the criminal in this plot would also be someone not belonging to the circle. And true to form it was someone from the circle. Though not very hard to guess for a seasoned crime reader, the conclusion along with the motive rings true and justified with the identity of the killer.

Lovesey, along with Colin Dexter and Reginald Hill is one of those British Crime writers whose book I enjoy reading. Though still writing in a time, where a mystery novel is not always required to have a mystery in it, or a whodunit can be easily replaced by a howcatchem and serial killers as the basis of a plot has become the order of the day, he still churns out whodunits in its truest form, full of mystery and twists with an ending which leaves me well satisfied. Just like Agatha Christie, whom the author has glorified time and time again in this particular novel, Lovesey’s novels and his highly enjoyable short stories will always be enjoyed by me without any restraints.

Summing up, this is a highly recommended book for any crime fan. It’s funny, fast paced, with a very enjoyable ending and a great character called Bob Naylor, whose poetry is in itself a treat to read.

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Sunday, 9 March 2014

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (George Smiley, #5)Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Can someone tell me why this book is considered to be a masterpiece of spy fiction??? I mean the reader gets "DROPPED" in the middle of nowhere called "A PLOT", with a protagonist who is too lazy or too laid back to care, along with me the reader, about whats going on. And by the end, when the mole gets pointed out, I dont know how or which points or clues pointed him out.


So, if these books don't have CRIME -> DETECTION -> CLUES SEARCH -> CATCHING THE MOLE, instead has confusing jargon, innumerable "spies" who have no link whatsoever to the plot, and a desperate attempt from the author to make spy fiction read like a booker winner, I call it PRETENTIOUS and tend to skip it, and make it a point of not reading the author's work again.

Give me a Bob Ludlum, or a Frederick Forsyth any day. Yes, unlike Le Carre their books might never be found in the hands of so-called serious readers, but atleast they live up to their name of spy thrillers. The books are thrilling.

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Thursday, 6 March 2014

Lupita and Barkhad

Lupita Nyong'o and Barkhad Abdi, you two should thank your stars that once you decided that you are going to act in movies, you chose the more plastic world of Hollywood to work. Where anyone, just anyone no matter how they look, can become an actor. Had you decided to work here in India, where the "REAL" movies are made, there would have been stark reality waiting for you at the Gateway of India. This is what would have happened, 1. Lupita : You have been treated 'REALLY' as a slave, and if you did manage to find yourself in a movie, your screen timing would have been 12 seconds in a 12-0 minutes blockbuster. 2. Barkhad : No movies for you. Maybe you could have got yourself an ad, where the admen would have shown the world what would happen to a man if he doesnt use FAIR & HANDSOME. The cream which, had you used it, would have turned you Fair and Handsome. WELCOME TO INDIA, the place where we still know how to be RACISTS and how to DREAM of being FAIR and HANDSOME. The place where REAL movies are made with REALLY BEAUTIFUL actors.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Acid RowAcid Row by Minette Walters
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For a long time I was hearing that Minette Walters is THIS and THAT i.e. her books were a tour de force in the world of crime writing. Though I had 3 of her books in my to-read shelf but they were far away from where I was currently. So when the opportunity arose, where my mind was reluctant to continue with the book which was next in line, I, without any hesitation picked up the Minette Walters that was closest to my hand, Acid Row.

Frankly speaking the title was intriguing but the blurb wasn’t. The book was supposed to be about a day in the lives of the resident of a housing society graffited in to Assid Row from Bassindale Row, where an intended peaceful march against suspected paedophiles turns out into a violent mob thereby jeopardising the residents and anyone caught up in the situation. For me this kind of blurb means a boring book, where there is hardly any kind of crime, so no criminal, and so no cat and mouse chase.

Thus with heavy heart, and expecting another P.D. James phenomena, I opened the opening lines, and within first few bars I was being treated to the high tempo beat of bebop jazz, instead of a serene classical concerto which I had come to expect. The book is really an eye opener, with nothing confirming to the set standards of crime writing the book held my attention till the last page. There were scenes which made me sit right on the edge of my seat, and brutality that made me keep away the book for a minute in hope of removing the image created from my mind. Coming to brutality, Walters showed me that just like, one doesnt need to be crude to be erotic, a crime writer doesnt need to spill brains, or pluck out eyes to be brutal. The book was filled with scenes which had zero blood spills, but were brutal enough to make a man squirm. Thanks to her writing skills. The plot was neither a whodunit, nor a howcatchem. Though there is a subplot of child abduction, but the main pillar of the book never strays from the happenings on the Acid Row.

Summing up, I feel its very difficult to write a crime novel where the plot doesnt revolves around a dead body or a criminal activity in general. The book becomes tough, and readers like me get uneasy thereby resulting in unfinished tag. But, this one here, despite having the same features came out as a brilliantly plotted, fast piece of crime fiction. This book will go down as a must-read for any crime lover who is in search of speed, plot and believable characters.

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