Monday, 29 December 2014

The Laws of Murder (Charles Lenox Mysteries, #8)The Laws of Murder by Charles Finch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The year is 1876, and Charles Lenox is just out of the parliament with some bad men to catch. Seven baddies to be exact, all of whom has eluded justice. The book starts as he packs away the sixth, felling him to a trap which used the baddy’s greed to full potential. And thus Lenox contemplates the last. The meanest and the baddest of them all. But, he knows it is not easy to catch that guy, so he opens a detective agency, something unheard of in those days, with three colleagues. Bad press, and worse quotes from a supposed friend inside Scotland Yard follows, and the business goes off to a rocky start. The three partners start to bring cases and money except Lenox. He sits idle and contemplates his future as a case drops into his lap, involving the dropping dead of that same bad mouthing good friend within the Yard. Inspector Jenkins.

What worked for me???

1. Great humanist mind-set shown by the protagonist towards animals. The lines dedicated towards the horses of London, showed Lenox to be a man of great humanity and advanced thinking, coming from an Age, when his peers were still hanging and flogging us Indians in India. Lenox even doubts whether they will be able to hold on to India for long. An advanced yet sacrilegious though during that time.

2. Children are difficult to understand in real life, except maybe for their mothers. And they are more difficult to write about. Alan Bradley is doing a wonderful job of having a child as his sleuth, and portraying her as a well-developed character. Though not a main point in this book, Lenox draws up children pretty effectively. Georgina is a treat to read about even in those small paras dedicated to her. With proper timing she is a protagonist in the making.

3. The setting of late 1800s London. For a man who never set his foot outside India, Lenox did a commendable job of describing London from the very first page. From her rain soaked to days to the posture of her citizens which shows they are idling away their time, his descriptions were vivid.

4. Characters. Most of them were well developed. Right from the partner, to the competitor and the culprit, everyone was shown in multi-dimensional ways, which justified their acts. It never felt that “OK, we don’t know about this guy and his life or his character, but we just know that he is the culprit”.

5. Twists. The book was a crime novel, and so by default required twists. And Lenox provides them in abundance. From baddies to holy men and women, everyone was made to go through his twist machine.

What didn’t work for me?

1. The length of the novel could have been shorter. Somehow the length was a bit of a dampener for me. The plot on its own would have been tight and more enjoyable had the book been 50 odd pages shorter.

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Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Secret Dead (Giordano Bruno, #0.5)The Secret Dead by S.J. Parris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Because I believe God is bigger than the rules we impose on one another. I think He does not mind if we find different paths to Him.”

The more I keep reading these Historical mysteries , the more I come to realise that its religion in its purest form remains as Holy as ever, but somewhere down the line the "HOLY MEN" took matter into their own hands and turned religion and the concept of God, into one of the most vilified and untrustworthy of all human beliefs.

The story was fast, and the character of Giordano Bruno reminded me of another God fearing true man of God, Brother Cadfael. The story came out as a tragedy mystery element in the story was not that potent, but the writing skill of the author kept the pace high from the very first paragraph, and never slacked in between.

My first S.J. Parris experience, and it was a sad but a beautiful one.

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Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Satan's Fire (Hugh Corbett, #9)Satan's Fire by Paul Doherty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Satan’s Fire written by Paul C. Doherty and featuring Sir Hugh Corbett, a clerk in the court of Edward I of England starts when the King visits York to meet the French envoy, to discuss the terms of marriage between the King’s son and the daughter of the King of France, Phillip III. No sooner had he reached York, than there was an attack on his life, which ultimately is revealed to be a threat from the Old Man of the Mountain and the Assassins. He asks Sir Hugh to investigate the threats as he is convinced the Knight Templars are involved in a conspiracy against him. Sir Hugh himself receives a threat from the same source as he starts to dig for the truth with the added responsibility of finding out a counterfeit who is using Gold to make and circulate coins without the King’s permission.

If compared to the Matthew Shardlake novels of C.J. Sansom, (though it can’t be done) some distinctive points of difference arise. One, unlike Matthew, Sir Hugh definitely remains in the good books of the King, and he himself holds a lot of power. Two, the plot was like a mystery novel with a touch of political conspiracy, which made this book an outright Crime novel, unlike Sovereign (Shardlake novel #3) which had a lot of political conspiracy and turned into a political thriller from being a mere murder mystery. And lastly, the period differs. Sir Hugh is walking when the English are fighting the Scots, the Pope still holds control over Edward I, unlike Matthew whose life saw a different type of anarchy in England, the Reform.

Personally I liked Satan’s Fire more, as I prefer a straight Mystery novel where the murder remains the main plot. The solving of the crime involves clues and twists, which this book had in abundance. And most important, and ironically this has nothing to do with crime, this book involved the Crusades which still remains one of the most favourite topic of History for me.

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Friday, 5 December 2014

Sovereign (Matthew Shardlake, #3)Sovereign by C.J. Sansom
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Three things I fear when I start a book. A book which is not borrowed but bought from my own savings, a book which with these three points can spell “Yawanathon” for me and can literally throw me into financial ruin for investing in a worthless adventure. Those three points are,
1. The author’s proclamation of being a HUGE fan of P.D. James (God rest her soul in peace).
2. A book which is 660 pages long, with long paragraphs.
3. A blurb from Colin Dexter which speaks about the book’ other aspects, but doesn’t mention how good is the mystery.
And thus justifiably frightened and with an apprehensive attitude I started SOVERIEGN by C.J. Sansom, and within a first few chapters I found out that despite all the above three points being present I am starting to enjoy the book. And the book proved to be such a marvel that after a long time I broke my own rule “If a book is not finished within a week, then it’s too boring too finish..ever, so skip to the next book” and took 16 odd days to complete this marvellous piece of crime fiction which is set in the times of Henry VIII, the middle age Lothario.

This book is a revelation. How many protagonists do we come across who gets bullied, beaten and threatened by every bad guy in the town, including the King. This guy, Matthew Shardlake does. He is just a lawyer and he gets bullied and shaken by high ranking bada**, and like a normal human being he endures those insults instead of throwing caution to wind and challenging the lot, like some “fictional” protagonists with “fictional” abilities would do. When laughed and mocked at, due to his physical deformation, unlike some wise crack hero who uses wit to counter every remark, he silently suffers and at times vocally protests. He is shown to be a human, yes a clever one, but a human after all who feels sad, suffers when laughed at like most of us. Cudos to Sansom for creating such a character. And not to forget his assistant Jack Barak, a faithful companion who is outraged when his master is mocked, but gets angry when the same master questions his fiancĂ©, but runs all over London just to save his master. Another very human character.

Lastly the plot, mashed with the historical atmosphere was something I lapped up like a hungry dog. Being a silent lover of history thrust into finance, I love to read these historical mysteries. I don’t complain if the historical part overshadows the mystery, but Sansom kept enough history, his descriptions of the reform, and King henry or the greed of Sir Richard Rich were very potent, never made it boring, and silently threw in a plot which is fast, which pits a man low in social strata against villains much higher in the pecking order, he exposes the man’s fears and the villain’s greed all within the framework of a tightly woven plot, and when the finishing pages starts arriving he unleashes twists after twists which is worthy of a standing ovation.

So, though I am sad of Dame Phyllis James death, I can never call myself a fan of her works. But, I am surely, from this day, counting myself as a fan of one of her fan, C.J. Sansom.

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Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Roman Blood (Roma Sub Rosa, #1)Roman Blood by Steven Saylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gordianus, who is also called the Finder is called upon by Cicero, the famed Roman orator and lawyer to take up the historical case of the parricide of Sextus Roscius. Gordianus accepts the case and starts looking for the truth, immediately seeing that the seemingly simple case is not simple at all. Threatened and laid off the case, he still digs for the truth, as the book moves towards a great finish.
The main problem I face while reading a Historical Whodunnit is that many a times the History overshadows the Crime and its solution. This book was not written that way. Saylor kept enough amount of history to make keep the ambience intact, and the reader interested in the historical perspective, he even used actual Historical figures, but throughout the book never did I once forget the fact that ultimately I am reading a piece of crime fiction, set in Ancient times. Throughout the book Saylor maintained the tense atmosphere of a crime novel, where the protagonist searches for an elusive truth, while being physically in danger and the characters around him either adds to the puzzle or helps him solve the puzzle.
Gordianus came out as a normal man, without any extra ordinary straits like extreme unhygienic or mood swings like a cricket ball. He is a normal man, with normal tastes and attributes. Though for a Roman his attitude towards his slave was too human to be true. But I guess he was one of those EXCEPTIONS back then who saw slaves as humans too.
A definitely enjoyable piece of crime fiction. Will surely read the rest of the books as the time moves on.

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