Sunday 30 December 2012

Down Under

by Bill Bryson

5 stars.

As I had already stated in my review of Bryson’s “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid”, that I can safely divide my reading period between the periods before and after I had read Bill Bryson. And, after reading Down Under I realized that I have never read a travelogue as well as this. Earlier I used to read a lot of Paul Theroux’s works, but lately I grew tired of his cynicism, and couldn’t find myself search for more of his works.

And so, when I was searching for a travelogue to read, I spotted this book in a second hand book shop and I deftly bought it. And , the money was well spent. Although the book fell in the in my discomfort zone of being a non-fiction with LONG paragraphs, I never had any problems breezing through the book. And, not only did I not have any problems, but I thoroughly enjoyed travelling with Bryson around Australia.

I liked the thought process of the author. He primarily goes to Australia to enjoy himself and travel, but never stops short of criticizing the faults he finds with the Australian society. And, the best part about this criticism is he does it in a way, which doesn’t makes it sound like whining of a man who doesn’t seems to find any good, in any of the places he visits.

The comic timing was impeccable; he used his words to make the reader laugh reading a travelogue, and most importantly the words helps the reader in visualizing the places and events, which he so funnily describes.

I can’t comment on the adequacy on the number f places visited by Bryson, as every place he touched were new to me. And, apart from the travels, which makes this book a must read for any travelogue fan, the amount of history Bryson stuffs into this book is also an added pleasure. From the sad stories of failed explorers to the harsh and cruel treatments of the Aborigines ending with the death of the crocodile SWEETHEART, who just wanted some peace from the sound of motors, Bill Bryson really makes Australia an interesting place!!

Monday 17 December 2012

Book Of Souls (Will Piper #2)

by Glenn Cooper

2.5 stars

“Much Ado about Nothing”
The emotion that came to my mind after I had finished reading “The Book of Souls” by Glenn Cooper. The book was another conspiracy thriller which combined books written by ancient monks, with undiscovered letters written by William Shakespeare, John Calvin and Michael Nostradamus, with modern day Government baddies trying to destroy peace and harmony, only to be thwarted by an ex-FBI and his wife, Will and Nancy Piper.

The book started off well, and up to 300 odd pages, the pace was really good. Never did I find a moment where I felt bored or was tempted to skip pages. The writing style, the flow of events and the way in which the writer connected, or rather presented the past and the present was truly worthy of applause. Without any hurdles, whatsoever I was drifting in and out of one historical period into another and back into the present.

But, then after finishing 3/4th of the book I wondered, where is the crime?? Where are the criminals?? And, most importantly, What is the reason for doing all this?? The reason when revealed at last, was certainly not befitting the wide web, and the foreboding of immense doom, the writer had created. So, it was much ado about nothing.

But, kudos to Glenn Cooper for writing, scenes which were believable, featuring characters from the book teamed with notable historical figures. But, while reading, especially the first half, I felt that, had I read the first instalment of the book, I would have understood this one more deeply. Which is a down point, according to me, as not everyone would have the correct sense to read the first book first and then go for the second one. And so, anyone who would have read the second book first would have some difficulty in getting the flow of events, just as I had.

So, summing up, my feelings about this book are mixed. I hugely enjoyed the plot build up, laced with historical characters and the suspense surrounding them, but was terribly disappointed with the ending which was almost an anti-climax. So, my rating for the book would be 2.5 out of 5.

Saturday 8 December 2012

The Key to Rebecca

by Ken Follett

December 05 to 06, 2012

5 stars

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again"

I encountered this famous line, in the very first chapter of the book. But, unlike the book to which this phrase originally belonged; I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, THE KEY TO REBECCA. I had read it long time ago, and while reading Du Maurier’s Rebecca I found out that this book was used as the code book by the German spy in THE KEY TO REBECCA. At that moment I decided to read it once again, as although I remembered the overall plot, but I had forgotten the little details, along with the twists and turns present. And, lastly I was also eager to read a spy thriller set in World War 2 era as it has been quite a while since I had read one.

The book starts off with the Nazi Spy, codenamed The Sphinx, crossing the Sahara desert on foot, and entering Egypt armed with two radios, a copy of Rebecca and a knife, to spy behind enemy lines with the intention of helping Erwin Rommel by providing him with British War Action plans and other intelligence. The plot revolves around how a British Intelligence officer Major William Bandam, with the help of a girl called Elene Fonatana, tries to stop the spy, and save the allies from certain defeat in North Africa.

This book was a classic Ken Follett , World War II espionage thriller. It had all the trademarks of an early Follett novel. A German spy, who is a borderline psychopath. A very human British officer standing in his way, and, which is present in almost all Follett novels, a strong female character who plays a pivotal role in the cat and mouse spy game.

Also present was the nail biting suspense and less abundance of action, which according to me was a good point, as I definitely feel that a prolonged action sequence slows down the pace of the book. And, added to all these, the exotic location of Egypt also added to the reading pleasure of the book. Although, some people comment that Follet’s recent historical fiction is far better than his earlier spy thrillers. But as a dedicated Follet fan I can safely say that I enjoy his spy thrillers as much as I enjoy his latest offerings.

Summing up, I would say this was a fast and enjoyable read, and I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a fast WW 2 spy fiction, which has more brainwork than action.

P.S. This book also portrayed the same feeling I had towards Daphne Du Maurier’s REBECCA. As Maj. Vandam’s son Billy said, “…it’s about some silly girl, who’s afraid of her husband’s housekeeper.”

Monday 26 November 2012

The Black Echo
Michael Connelly
2.5 stars
11th to 25th November, 2012

“You are a cliché cop”
This line from the book, sums up the overall feeling and experience I had while reading BLACK ECHO by Michael Connelly, featuring LAPD detective Harry Bosch. The book was full of clichés, scattered everywhere, like dead bodies in a war field!!!
So, first things first. Lets check the points, I mean the clichéd ones, in relation to a police procedural, which must have been present,
1. Bitter Detective who has been demoted – Present.
2. Hero having problems adhering to department guidelines – Present.
3. A war-scarred Vietnam veteran – Present.
4. Hero falling in love only to receive broken heart – Present.
5. Hero is a loner – Present.
6. Hero loves music – Present.

So, almost everything I expected to find in a typical American police procedural was present in this book. So, it was not a wonder, that sometimes while reading it, I found myself wondering whether Bosch is a long lost cousin of John Rebus. The similarities were so uncanny, as if it was almost a family trait. The only major difference being in the choice of music. Rebus like classic rock, while Bosch found solace in Jazz.
“....the only things he spent money on was on food, booze and jazz”
Having a feeling of déjà vu, had heard same sort of character description about a police officer from Edinburgh.

Every character starting from Bosch’s boss to the culprits were true to stereotype. The dialogues were true to form, loud mouthed, bland and clichéd. They failed to invoke any sensation whatsoever.

Now the plot. Somehow it felt, unreal. The crime and the modus operandi was ingenious. But the motive for the crime seemed somewhat farfetched to me. The pace of the book was slow too. For the first 250 odd pages the plot went nowhere. There were very few clues for the reader, and no solid suspects were introduced. I, personally, had a tough time going through those first 250 pages.

So, summing up, all I can say is that it wasn’t a pleasant read. And, it was also nothing out of the ordinary. If given a choice I would choose Morse with Oxford, over Bosch with Hollywood.

My last point is a sort of wondering aloud. I have always wondered why most American detectives have to be such lonely and broken characters. Why cant they be family men, with a normal life?? I am still waiting for the book, where I will be treated to a protagonist who leads a normal life, with a family, and for whom solving a crime is not any sort of crusade, but its just a part of his job. Someone like Inspector Wexford from the other side of the Atlantic.
1.Though the book disappointed me, but I am certainly not giving up on Michael Connelly. I had liked his standalone novel,, VOID MOON, and I definitely believe that I am going to like the other two books I have with me in my shelf.
2. The description of the tunnels and the tunnel rats from the Vietnam war was what prompted me to give this book a 2.5 stars instead of a 2.

Sunday 11 November 2012


11th November, 2012

Saw SKYFALL today, and I positively think that this movie is destined to become one of the greatest BOND Film of all times. I know this is a BIG statement but as a Bond buff, I am fully satisfied with what I saw, rather experienced today!!!

Did they make any mistake, NO. There were no mistakes in this movie. Everything was perfectly placed and portrayed.  The easy transition of M, the replacement of Miss Moneypenny, the infallible loyalty of  the British Bulldog. Everything was smooth, from the word GO.

And what tributes, from that old Aston Martin from GOLDFINGER, to the good old James Bond theme in the background. Not the modern version, but the one made immortal by John Barry and Monty Norman, with the surf rock guitar playing those famous notes.

And, what about that sequence of using the Komodo dragon for jumping. Don’t we remember Roger Moore, using crocodiles to do the same in LIVE AND LET DIE?? Yes, this film was nostalgia, even the gun barrel sequence. Pure, no dilutions. Pure and Vintage bond.

What about Ralph Fieness. One of those points which made me think when will the next Bond release, I need to see Fieness as M. No comparisons with Judi Dench , Bernard Lee or Robert Brown. They all had their own immortal signature on this role. But, having Ralph Fieness in the pivotal role do change the equations a bit., with Naomie Harris as Miss Moneypenny.

Just one hitch though. I missed Desmond Llewelyn. His Q, was the best and will be the best. I am sure, with him at the helm of Q branch, Silva would have had a tough time to break into the MI6 system. He never gave an inch to James Bond, so any Silva, is fodder for him, any day any time.

And, lastly Silva. One of the best, one of the cruellest. Goes right to the top, with those who came before him. Remember Francisco Scaramanga??? He was a psychopath too. He even had an island like Silva. Or for that matter Auric Goldfinger?? Wasnt he cruel too, he painted that poor girl in Gold!!!

The locales used were perfect. Albert Finney with Scotland in the back was bleak, cold and captivating. And, Macau?? Another nostalgic trip, for Mr Bond?? Did he remember that gunmaker who supplied Scaramanga with his Golden Gun and bullets??

Tuesday 30 October 2012

The Game

Laurie R. King

I can’t and won’t give any stars to this book, as I couldn’t finish it. THE GAME by Laurie R. King, based on the classic KIM by Rudyard Kipling, features amateur sleuths Mary Russell and her husband, another literary heavyweight, Sherlock Holmes, as the duo travels to India, and tries to find Kimball O’Hara, who has gone missing, and is wanted back in THE GAME by the British Government. Yes, the same Kim, Kipling had created. And, by doing so, saving the British Raj from the Russian Bolsheviks

Surely with two fascinating characters, I was eager to read the book. But somehow after reading 90 odd pages, I had to give up.
The plot was going nowhere. The total plot material related to THE GAME and Kim, could have been easily written in 10 pages, and so by default, the other 80 pages became a Yawnathon. And, somehow I became sure that this ratio would continue in the book.

King used two literary heavyweights, who happened to e in public domain. The possibilities for this book was huge. So, when I left the book midway, the disappointment was of equal proportion!!!

I never judge a writer, by a single book. So, definitely I am going to read another of King’s work, considering the fact that she is a well praised and celebrated Crime novelist.

Thursday 18 October 2012

The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid
Bill Bryson
14th to 18th October, 2012
5 stars

“Making a man laugh is tougher than making him cry”
   1. I was depressed, my life was going nowhere and then I read Bill Bryson.
         2. I was not passing my exams, I was depressed and then I read Bill Bryson.
         3. I was still single and depressed, and then I read Bill Bryson.

So, finally I did read Bill Bryson. And, now that I have, I can safely say divide my reading life into two parts,
         1. Before I had read Bill Bryson
         2. After I had read Bill Bryson.
The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid, describes the growing up years of Bill Bryson, in the 1950s, in the city of Des Moines, Iowa.

Generally I tend to stay away from non-fiction but Goodreads had long ago recommended Bryson to me. But his books were so costly that I never came around to buy them. So when I found his books at a used book store, I could not help but grab them.

Since I was not born in 1950s, my dad was born in 1950s, but not in Iowa instead in Rajasthan in India, I took every fact and incident stated in the book at its face value, and laughed out loud, only to stop, so that I can move on to the next paragraph.

This book was one of the funniest books I have read. The way Bryson describes the events of his childhood, though at times leaving me scared (especially the ingenious yet scary endeavours of Doug Willoughby, the treatment of Milton Milton among others), made me laugh without any restraint and move forward with the book.

The book was a fast read. Though it was outside my comfort reading zone of small paragraphs, the prose never slowed down the book. Such was the power of the Thunderbolt Kid. From Chapter 1, Bryson converted his autobiography into an adventure. Oh! I forgot, his was the adventure of the Thunderbolt Kid, the son of King Volton.

And what descriptions!!! From Bizzaro world to Dewey the dog, to strippers tent at the Iowa State Fair or putting one’s hat into another’s hatbox. Perfect words for the appropriate events.And, the last chapter. Oh! The last chapter. Seldom had I read something that had made me this sad. His friendship with Jed Mattes, his search for the city of his youth or even the retirement of the Thunderbolt Kid.

Truly a master writer, who made me laugh throughout the book, only to make me realise that at the end, most laughter are born to shield the deepest sorrows!!

Wednesday 17 October 2012

The Mysterious Affair At Styles
Agatha Christie
5/5 stars

I had read this book long ago, when I was in the eighth standard. That was in 2000, more than a decade ago. At that time I was not much impressed by it. I found the ending to be silly and had the opinion that Christie had written better whodunits than this one.
After 12 years, I still hold on the idea that Christie had written better novels, but with certain modifications to that view.
This one may not be her finest, but certainly this one is one of the most significant of her works, aside from the fact that this was her first novel.
In this novel we find Poirot, searching for mud stains and torn dresses. A definite HOLMESIAN modus operandi, which he later came to dismiss and rely more on his little grey cells.
This was Christie’s first, and she was long way from developing Poirot’s distinct traits.
And, she pointed out in her autobiography that she did read Holmes, and maybe she did get influenced by his methods, although Poirot might not have liked it.
Another aspect present in this book, quite different from Christie’s later works was the presence of the LOCKED ROOM MSTERY approach. Although she seldom used this approach in her later novels, this was nevertheless a very popular technique of the time she wrote STYLES...
Here we find a murder taking place, in a room, the doors to which is locked, with a distinct question as to how the criminal entered the room. Though not a LOCKED ROOM in the purest sense, but it was close enough.
If the book was compared today, the solution is full of circumstantial evidence, but the sheer amount of clues and the massive no. Of twists, delete any negative feeling about the book.
In short, all I can say is that, after completing the book, it doesn’t feel like a re-read at all. The pleasure derived was as good as reading a book for the first time.

Sunday 14 October 2012

Beggar’s Banquet
Ian Rankin
5th to 14th October, 2012
2/5 stars

I am not a fan of short stories. But, I also agree that a good short story can provide a lot more thrill than a long drawn novel. It’s almost like a tequila shot, instead a mug of beer. The sensation is strong sharp, and it’s easily forgotten once the next shot comes in hand.

But, for this sensation to happen, there are two basic points according to me, which must be present,
1.  The story must be well defined. There is always a restriction on the quantity of words, so the story must contain all the elements of a plot, to not to leave the reader asking questions about gaps in the story, after finishing it.
2. The writer must be someone who is well versed in writing short stories. There are not many I have read, who can write a novel and a short story with equal acumen. Among the modern writers Jeffery Archer and Jeffery Deaver are the names that come to mind, and among the oldies Agatha Christie had the same effect.

Now coming to this collection of short stories by Ian Rankin, BEGGAR’S BANQUET, I must sadly say that I was very much disappointed.

While reading an Ian Rankin, I always make a concession of plots and twist. His plots are good, characters strong, but the twists aren’t present. His books are much more o HOWCATCH’EM instead of WHODUNNIT.

So, I was in the correct frame of mind when I started this book, about what to expect, but what I got was nowhere near it. There are only a few stories I can safely say that I remember still, even among those three made any impact on me.

As I mentioned in point no. 1, the plots left a lot to be desired. Make no mistake that these plot when turned into a full scale novel, or even a novella, would turn out to be great reads. Rankin has that power to create masterpieces, but with restrictions on word count, those same plots become summaries of a full scale novel. I mostly understand what happened, but left the story with a lot of unanswered questions. Almost all the stories left me with a sense of incompleteness.

For example, in a story, a murder victim is first suspected to be gay, but as it turns out in the closing paragraph he is straight. Now, this process of destroying the false hypothesis of his sexuality needed at least one paragraph. The reader should be told how the truth was uncovered, but here the writer failed to take that step, because, the restriction on word count.
So, despite the 2 stars rating, I still consider Rankin as one of my favourite. I still regret the fact that I missed him when he visited my city Kolkata. I have another of his novel, THE BLACK BOOK, which I am sure will delete all misgivings I had about this book.

Thursday 4 October 2012

The Sleeping Doll
by Jeffery Deaver
27th September to 4th October, 2012
1/5 stars.

Very few things to write about this book.

1. I did not finish it. I could not finish it. I mean I finished it, but if you call it finishing, after skipping around 300 pages. The plot was going nowhere, the culprit was going nowhere, even the police seemed to be stationary.

2. The main protagonist of Katheryn Dance, is best suited as a cameo character, like her role in another Deaver Novel.

I am not a chauvinist, but this lady doesn’t have what it takes to become a main character. (I have nothing against women. Marple and Millhone, JAI HO!!! )

3. The culprit and the sidekick was comical. Yes, they did have a violent streak but they were comical, no doubt about it.

4. Useless words, meaningless dialogues. The book was filled with these. Dialogues which could have been easily avoided, and would have sped up the book.

5. Like every Deaver book, the subject taught here was Kinesics. The subject was interesting; I would definitely wear shades, the next time I lie. But, it was not helping the plot. So, sadly it became boring.

6. The book could have been completed in 250 odd pages, had these extra arms chopped off. But, it was stuffed and made to bloat to 500 odd pages.

7. Deaver should stick to writing for the ones who cares for the mystery genre, as opposed to sticking to the maxim of “BOOKS SHOULD BRING MONEY”, like fellow writer James Patterson, and throw away any substance from the book.

8. I have had enough of Deaver, can’t believe he was the one who wrote A MAIDEN’S GRAVE.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Winter of the World (Century Trilogy II)
Ken Follet
21st to 26th September, 2012
5 Stars.

“....we have to fight the Communists just as hard as the Fascists. They’re both evil”

The first book of the Century Trilogy by Ken Follet, dealt with the first world war, and the events surrounding it. This book starts in the year 1933, leads up to the Second World War, finishing off in the year 1949. The events like the first book, is spread over the two continents on the either side of the Atlantic.
The book is a fast read. The prospect of reading 900 odd pages, though daunting at first, seems easy as the pages fly away. The plot just carries from where the last book had left it. In this edition the principle characters of the last book were all there, but the spotlight was shone on their offspring.
The prose also followed the pattern of the last book. Short paragraphs, and a lot of dialogues between the characters. This was one of the best points of the book according to me. Follet had described places, showed events happening all through dialogues. These first person dialogues helped the book in not becoming boring.
Another great aspect of the book was that Follet had been able to keep the interest of the reader alive for all the main characters. There were lots of them, based in different countries. By the end of the book, I was really curious to know what happened to each of them.
But one small glitch according to me was the abundance of CO INCIDENCES. The book was full of them. Agreed, that the book wouldn’t have been as fast and as unputdownable, if those chance encounters between the characters weren’t there. But still at times, when, almost every character was bumping into another character that happened to know him or her, the phrase “ITS A SMALL WORLD” seemed clichéd.
Lastly, the book showed us, the ones who were born long after the war, the brutality of the war. Reading the book, I felt so sad, thinking actually what people had to go through in those times. The brutality of Nazism, the madness of Communism, and the bloodlust of the War, made every other thing in the book pale in its comparison. There were little or no mention of the concentration camps, but one major event, which we seldom read about, was portrayed in the book. Action T4, the Nazi plan to kill anyone who is “unproductive” in the fatherland was given a lot of attention in the book.

P.S. Ken Follet is one of my favourite authors of all times. I have a unwritten doctrine of not reading anything but thrillers. But, when Follet brings out a novel. I slowly move away from my doctrine, grab his book and start reading. Because, I am always sure of being entertained, and he never fails me.

Thursday 20 September 2012

The Devil’s Teardrop
Jeffery Deaver
16th to 19th September, 2012
4/5 stars

The Devil’s Teardrop by Jeffery Deaver, is a standalone novel, featuring Special Agent Margaret Lukas and document examiner Parker Kincaid. The story is set in a time frame of less than 12 hours on the last day of the previous millennium i.e. 31.12.1999.
The novel starts with a lone gunman, calling himself the Digger, spraying bullets from a silenced machine gun into a crowded station on New Year’s Eve in Washington. Sometimes later the mayor gets a ransom note asking him to pay $20 million, or else Digger would go on shooting at regular intervals. Agent Lucas heads the case, calls on Kincaid, to help trace evidence from the note delivered to the mayor. In the meantime, a hit and run victim, is identified as the controller of he Digger. Now, with on one to control the gunman, he will kill time and time again, before someone stops him.
This is pure VINTAGE DEAVER. The plot, in itself would fool the reader. Halfway into the book, I felt that, this was all about catching and stopping the digger, but somewhere Deaver was chuckling, and I was fooled. Because, during the last 50 odd pages, he started twisting me around, and presented me with a plot, which was ingenious and devilish to the core. This book is a must read for any thriller lover.
Characters were well drawn up. The special feature, which I like in a Deaver novel is, that his antagonists are much more intriguing than his protagonists, they are evil to the core, doesn’t hesitate to kill. What makes them scare and interesting is that, Deaver through them makes us realise, that actually in the world out there, people roam about, with suck psychopathically evil tendencies.
As always, he didn’t waste much words on the personal lives of the protagonists, they were given pages, but never did those information become a burden to the plot. They were perfect in size, to be appreciated in between the flow of the plot. And, like his other books even this one was a treasure trove of information, as in Maiden’s Grave he told us about the world of the physically challenged, in this one, he makes us go through the world of calligraphy and forgery.
The reason, I gave 4 stars instead of 5, was a minor point in the plot, which I found hard to believe. Except that this book deserved a 5 star rating.

P.S. There is a cameo appearance, in this book, from one of his regular protagonists.

Saturday 15 September 2012

Lata Gwalani
4/5 stars
15th September, 2012

“A love story with a sad ending makes me sad; a love story with a happy ending makes me sadder”
-          Obelix

Incognito is the debut novel by writer Lata Gwalani. After reading her words, and the general reviews, I, being a thriller addict myself, decided to give this book a try. I finished the book in 3 hrs flat, and by the end of it I can safely say I have enjoyed the book.
Now, the plot was nothing too complicated, which at the end would leave a lot of loose strings hanging around, neither did I feel that it was juvenile in its standard. From page one she creates an atmosphere of suspense, the use of first hand narrative deserves a high five. The four narratives which make up the bull-work of the book were easy and fast to read. My favorite being the ANURADHA’s narrative, I actually liked her take on friendship and relation.
Use of first person narrative helped the book maintain its character. A first person narrative, especially in a thriller, adds an extra dose of suspense. A first person narrative makes the reader get into the mood of a character in the book, rather than being a mere spectator.
Another great aspect of the book was, short sentences, short paragraphs and short chapters. James Patterson creates wonders with this formula; here Ms. Galwani does the same, and helps the reader to breeze through the book. And the absence of any complicated words and phrases were also an added blessing for me.
But, I would still have issues with this book called a thriller, a pure thriller. Accepted, that it had a thriller layer in it, but what overwhelmed me was the TRAGIC layer. The last chapters where the truth gets revealed is too sad. The situation was never over the top, but reading about Anjali’s life, was a painful process. Kudos to the writer on creating such a tragic character who happened to feature in 25+ odd pages.
1. I am not talking about the grammar or the editing, because I don’t find myself qualified to do so. (There may be numerous mistakes in this review itself!!!!)

Thursday 13 September 2012

Gone Tomorrow
Lee Child
September 11 to 12, 2012
5/5 stars

The 13th chronicle of Jack Reacher’s life penned by Lee Child. The time frame of this novel is post 9/11, almost five years after the death of Jack’s brother Joe, in Killing Floor.
The book opens with Reacher travelling in New York subway, while he suspects a fellow traveller, a woman named Susan Parks, to be a suicide bomber. He tries to talk her into stopping her from carrying out her plans, when she brings out a gun, and shoots her head to kingdom come. After that, literally, all hell breaks loose. We are then taken through a roller coaster ride of 443 pages, which consisted of politicians with dirty secrets, women with hobbies of cutting up male prisomers, Reacher getting busted by feds, and everyone except Reacher, lying thorough their teeth.
The plot, as usual, was a bit improbable, but not slows. Ina athriller when a protagonist gets caught up in the events happening around him, there is always a feeling that there is too much of coincidence to be true. As, in this book, Reacher follows up on the lady’s death, just because he felt he pushed her into committing suicide. Which is very uncommon, a man, especially someone like Reacher who hates spotlight and brushes with the law, would have just walked away.
But such small points wouldn’t take away the fact, that this was a fast and enjoyable read. It’s very common, with thrillers with 400+ pages to have a portion, which is boring. But, that is not the case with this book. Once you get into the saddle, the ride will stop only after the book is over.
The characterisation was, well, adequate for a thriller. The dialogues, the best in the business. Lee Child surely knows how to create a hero and put words into his mouth. Another favourite aspect of mine, the ONE MAN ARMY attitude of Reacher. He takes on a whole army of 20 guys all alone, and makes it look as easy as buttering a bread.
Barring one small hitch, about an unanswered question regarding the motive, this book is surely one of the best to come out of Child’s stable.
P.S. Thumbs up for the first person narrative.

Tuesday 11 September 2012

The Snake, the Crocodile & the Dog
Elizabeth Peters
August 31 to September 11, 2012
5/5 stars

“No woman really wants a man to carry her off; she only wants him to want to do it.”

The Snake, the Crocodile and the Dog by Elizabeth Peters is the 7th instalment, of her highly acclaimed crime series featuring Amelia Peabody-Emerson and her husband Radcliffe Emerson. The novel begins with the Emersons returning from their last adventure in the Lost Oasis, with the young girl Nefret. As they try to introduce her into English social life, Nefret, who previously had no brushes with English society, comes face to face with meanness and snobbery from girls of her age. With coming of fall, the Emersons decide to return to Egypt, with Nefret deciding to stay back in England, along with Ramses, Emersons’ son. Trouble starts once the Emersons land in Egypt. After the customary greetings with old acquaintances are over, a man tries to kidnap Amelia during a ball, as Emerson is attacked by three men. However, their plan is foiled, but a few nights later, Emerson gets kidnapped, while returning from dinner. Although Amelia, with assistance from an old friend Cyrus Vandergelt, rescues Emerson, only to realise that he is suffering from Amnesia and can no longer remember anyone. Back in England, both Ramses and Nefret face assailants, kidnap attempts, and unsuccessful burglaries.  Now, as the blurb declares, Amelia must fight to thwart the evil forces and rescue her marriage.
The plot, of the book, in all, was not very twisting or for that matter neither the crime was of high quality. The first 100 odd ages of the book was very slow. Now, this is due to the fact that the first book I read was the 7th in the series. There were many characters and many incidents referred to in those pages which took place in the earlier novels. But, not once did I find those pages boring. Coming to the crime, it was very vanilla compared to the exotic crimes we get today. A man got murdered only after 3/4th of the book has gone by. After completing the book I would say this is much more of an adventure than a crime novel, as detection or fact finding missions are definitely missing.
The characters were one of the best I have come across. Amelia Peabody, is definitely going to be one of my favourite woman characters of all time. Here we find a lady, who is strong; both physically and mentally, always ready to step up to confront any kind of prejudice coming from the male society. Yet, she is not a person, who is not prone to hearing sweet endearments from her husband. The pain she goes through while she sees her husband not recognising her is truly heartfelt. But, the most wonderful character strait I found in her was , her love towards animals. She steadfastly refuses the donkeys to beaten, she offers food to mongrels. Now, maybe in todays world this maybe be very common, but a woman in late 1800s to feel such compassion for animals is truly wonderful.
Emerson is gruff, but with a softness inside him. But, the best male character by far was Ramses, their son. The letters he wrote to his parents, his endeavours to keep his family safe, his budding crush towards Nefret, all makes him, a character , reading about whom always brings a smile to the reader.
The language was funny, though being a bit old fashioned. It wasn’t overbearing, the paragraphs were modest in size, the sentences mercifully short. But what stood out, was the description of Egypt. In reading this book I also, had the opportunity of visiting Egypt. The travelogue was calm, and was devoid of sharp criticism, and sarcasm found in the travelogues of today.
One of the best books I have read in recent times, surely this won’t be the last of the Amelia Peabody series I would be reading.

Saturday 1 September 2012

Might As Well Be Dead
Rex Stout
22.8.2012 to 30.8.2012
2.5/5 stars

The book was the first Rex Stout novel, featuring Nero Wolfe, I have read. I had heard a lot about the author, high recommendations, which were justified, as he was nominated for the greatest Mystery Writer of the Century, and his series the Best Mystery Series of The Century at Bouchercon 2000, the world's largest mystery convention.
The book starts when Wolfe gets a visit from James Herold asking him to find him his son, Paul Herold. The son was banished from his family and business when he was caught stealing money from his dad’s business. Now, on the behest of his mother, the dad wants his son back, and he has also unearthed evidences which points to the fact that may be Paul Herold was innocent of the embezzlement. So, Wolfe starts his search and finds himself in the midst of dead bodies, one of them belonging to a colleague of his.
The book was set in 1956, now I always felt that as a man in 2012, I was not comfortable with the language used in the book. Nowadays we have got accustomed to short paragraphs and shorter sentences, and here I was barged with half a page paragraphs, and mile long sentences. It was a daunting task, to keep the track of the plot. The language was muddling it up for me.
Even if I could have ignored the grammar, I was hit with the sheer abundance of characters. There were a lots of them, in this book, and with huge paragraphs, and more than one character appearing in one paragraph, things were bound to get muddled, and they did.
And, lastly the plot didn’t make any sense to me. Too much emphasis on pure coincidence, bordering on the impossible. A convict, who had his decision pending the very next day, after Wolfe is contacted by Herold Sr., turning out to be the person being searched for, is the epitome of coincidence.
Maybe, this was not the best of Stout’s work. A man doesn’t get nominated for Best Mystery Writer by writing this stuff. So, will be waiting for my next Rex Stout novel, to get in touch with a real masterpiece.

Thursday 23 August 2012

Killing Floor
Lee Child
16.8.2012 to 21.8.2012
5 stars

KILLING FLOOR was Lee Child’s debut novel, featuring Jack Reacher, the ex-military police protagonist created by him. I had read Child’s THE ENEMY earlier, and had liked what I had read. Although there was nothing out of ordinary in the book, but it had pace, and was filled with thrill, suspense and action packed sequences.
So, when I finished reading KILLING FLOOR, I had a feeling that this author was destined to be counted among the best of thriller fiction authors of our generation. Never once, while reading the book I had the feeling that I was reading a debut novel.
The book had a vice like grip on me, the plot though common, was filled with suspense, and action. The hero Jack Reacher, the best among the current crop of fictional protagonists, was gritty and funny with a tinge of menacing.
And, lastly the dialogues, what attitude. The book could have survived alone on the dialogues. They were quirky, emotional, robust and intimidating.
One special mention would be for the fight scenes. Normally, I don’t pay much attention to them, but the scenes in this book were so nicely done, that they became an integral part of the plot. Which could not be skipped. Same goes for the torture scenes, they were short and gory, but were potent enough to send a chill down the reader’s spine.
P.S. Tom Cruise playing the role of Jack Reacher, is the upcoming movie, is such a let down.

Thursday 16 August 2012

F is for Fugitive
Sue Grafton
13.8.2012 to 15.8.2012
4/5 stars.

The sixth installment of the Kinsey Millhone series by Sue Grafton. I would start by saying that this is one of the best books in the series. The book is a whodunit, with the murder being something which happened 17 years ago. Jean Timberlake was strangled, her then boyfriend Bailey Fowler was convicted, but he escaped. Now 17 years later he has been captured again. Royce, Bailey’s dad, hires Kinsey to find out who is the real killer as he is convinced that it is not Bailey. Kinsey starts her work, and eventually starts finding dead bodies turning up everywhere.
This book was packed with all the essential Grafton straits, but the mood was much more sombre. The dialogues weren't as quirky as the other books. But what really stood out in this book was the characters and the plot. The characters, according to me couldn't have been more nicely drawn. The town which was ready to portray Bailey as the scapegoat was shown effectively, with almost everyone with a secret to hide.
The plot was the crowning glory. Like a mountain pass, full of twists, turns and thrills, it makes the book an unputdownable read. The famous legwork of Kinsey was present, with that her deduction powers were in full force. And, the ending. The icing on the cake. I could never guess the culprit, nor could guess the motive.
Recommended to every whodunit fan, this book is a sure joy read for anyone who cares to read it.

Monday 13 August 2012

James Patterson, Howard Roughan
4/5 stars
11.8.2012 to 12.8.2012

Sail by James Patterson co-authored by Howard Roughan tells the story about the dysfunctional family of Dr. Katherine Dunne, a heart surgeon who had lost her husband, Stuart, in a scuba diving accident off their boat, The Family Dunne. Now she has re-married Peter Carlyle a hotshot defense attorney. She and her three kids Carrie, Mark and Ernie, along with her former brother-in-law Jake, takes a summer sailing trip in their boat THE FAMILY DUNNE. Hours into the trip they start facing problems starting with Carrie trying to commit suicide to someone sabotaging the boat.
Whenever I have read a James Patterson book I have had the feeling that the book is somehow incomplete, the plot is incomplete, the characters are incomplete, this happens mostly with the books which he have co-authored instead of the ones written by him ,alone, but come what may, the thought of putting the book down hardly crosses my mind. And, this is where I think Patterson surpasses many of his contemporary thriller novelists. He manages to hold on to the readers interest with short chapters, short paragraphs, and makes the book reading exciting, with very few dull moments. It's almost like a roller coaster ride, it’s the same thing, but still the excitement seeps through the spine every time I stand in the queue for taking a ride. 
In this book for instance, all the typical Patterson points were present. Minimum character development, plot filled with coincidences and WHAT-IF-THIS-DID-NOT-HAPPEN moments. The identity of the culprit revealed halfway down the book. For the last half of the book there was hardly any suspense except, how the good guy will catch the bad guy aspect.
But, still I finished the book in 1 day flat, and that is the reason why gave it 4 stars. For me a thriller should be just something as the name suggests, SOMETHING WHICH WOULD THRILL ME, and Patterson manages to do that in every book of his. There are books out there in the market with better plot, characterisation, but also with an advanced level of BOREDOM attached to it. So, as long as Mr. Patterson continues to deliver edge of the seat thrillers, he will continue to be one of my favorite authors, for he does just the thing which every thriller novelist should try to do, HE ENTERTAINS!!!

Friday 10 August 2012

Yesterday’s Spy
Len Deighton
9.8.2012 to 10.8.2012
3/5 stars

Kinsey Millhone, the P.I. created by Sue Grafton, is seen reading Len Deighton novels in many of her books. I had heard about Deighton, the movie Ipcress File was based on his novel of the same name. So, when I saw this book in a second hand book stall I bought it promptly. But, sadly, what followed was a mediocre read.
The major problem, I had with this book, was that it had no suspense. From the very beginning, the reader knew who was good and who happened to be the bad guy. So, the only portion not known was how the good guy is going to catch the bad guy. So, basically this turned out to be a spy adventure novel. But, saying that the book had a speed of its own. Once I started reading I never felt out of pace. The events described were short and strong, the dialogues were short too, though at times clichéd.
The characterisations were adequate for a spy novel. Since the main feature of the book is based on catching and stopping the villain from carrying out his villainy, detailed characterisation was unnecessary and mercifully not provided.
I guess this was a wrong choice to begin my tryst with Len Deighton. Well, I will lok out for another of his novels, and try it out, before giving up on him.

Wednesday 8 August 2012

An Unsuitable Job for a Woman.
P.D. James
6.8.2012 to 8.8.2012
3.5/5 stars.

This was my 4th PD James novel. The protagonist of this book happened to be Miss Cordelia Gray, unlike the other three, where the protagonist was Adam Dalgleish, James’s much celebrated policeman.
I am not a big fan of P.D.James as I find her book too literary for my taste. I hate when the author of a crime fiction uses up half a page to describe the weather or the birds on the trees. And, I had the same problem with her other novels. However, in this book, although the same descriptions were present, but were mercifully shorter (I guess this book is the one of the shortest of all her novels).
In the novel, Miss Gray, inherits a Detective Agency after her partner had committed suicide. Later she is hired by Sir Ronald Callender, to find out the reason why his son, Mark, committed suicide. As it happens the suicide turns out to be murder, and Miss Gray solves the crime with almost 40 odd pages left in the book. The plot was nothing out of the ordinary, standard modus operandi and motive, for the killer to commit his crime.
Now, for the characters. Dame James lets her talent lose on this front. The characters are very well drawn up. While reading, the reader can almost visualise the person he is reading about. The dialogues are excellent, especially the speech by the culprit, justifies his stature as an evil person.

Sunday 5 August 2012

E is for Evidence
Sue Grafton
2.8.2012 to 5.8.2012
4.5/5 stars.

The fifth installment of the Kinsey Millhone series by Sue Grafton. In this one, unlike the other books, Kinsey was working on her own to defend herself from being framed in a insurance fraud. The book had all the qualities to be marked as an UNPUTDOWNABLE. All the trade mark qualities of a Sue Grafton was present, funny dialogues, abundance of characters, a lot of leg work and fact finding by Kinsey, and a blistering pace.
But, saying all this, I would still label this book as an adventure. The mystery element was very much present, but the truth came out, not because of some fascinating deduction by Kinsey, but through a sort of confession by a character.
The plot of this novel was really twisted and fast. This book would be right up there with the gory and twisted Scandinavian thrillers of today, in respect of the plot. It had almost everything in it, financial fraud, murder, bombs, treachery and even Incest.
A hugely recommended book for any mystery addict. Certainly one of the best books to come out of Ms.Grafton's stable.

Wednesday 1 August 2012

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
John le Carré
28.7.2012 to 1.8.2012
3.75/5 stars.

This was my first Le Carre novel, and frankly speaking I am a bit confused. I cant say that I hated it or I liked it very much. All I can say is that IT WAS DIFFERENT.
I have grown up on spy thrillers by Fredrick Forsyth, Robert Ludlum and others, and always, in their books, there is a lot of movement, a lot of action, which was missing in this book. While reading it, more than once, I had the feeling of reading a drama instead of a thriller.
Now, why I had that feeling? Normally, a thriller needs a plot build up, chapters dedicated to happening of events which led to the happening of the main event. But, in this book, I thought that, the build up was very short, in fact I found it hard to really understand what was happening. Especially, during the chapter “DECLINE “I had problems understanding the sequence of the events and the time frame.
No complaints however regarding the protagonist Alec Leamas. I had read somewhere that Le Carre was known for his HUMAN protagonist, someone who is unlike Mr. Bond. Reading this book made me realise what was meant by that article. Maybe, the lack of action, is due to the fact that HUMAN spies are humans, and not capable of over the top action.
The best thing, and the most UNIQUE point, for this book, according to me, was the smearing of the line between the black and white. Le Carre in this novel showed, that when it comes to winning, the only colour present is GREY, where the good doesn't hesitates to use and sacrifice pawns and innocents to be on the top and win.

Sunday 29 July 2012

Spinsters In Jeopardy
Ngaio Marsh
25.7.2012 to 28.7.2012
3/5 stars

This was my second Ngaio Marsh book, featuring British CID detective Roderick Alleyn. There were two aspects in this book that struck me as out of ordinary for a Marsh novel.
1.There were no references to the theater and play. The plot was without any connection to the stage. Most of her works are very much related to the stage, as her greatest passion was theater.
2.This was not a whodunnit, this was much more, a thriller, where the good and the bad were defined and segregated from the first chapter. So, the element of mystery was sadly missing.
The first point never bothered me, because I like mysteries and I never care whether they are set on the stage or on the streets. And, just because of this I was a bit disappointed with this book. Frankly speaking, when it comes to a thriller, it must have a lot of THRILLING moments in it. And, sadly, that was very much missing. The book had its own pace, but it wasn’t enough for a thriller.
There were hardly any THRILLING moments, which would put you on the edge of your seat. The sedate pace was perfect for a whodunnit, which the book was not.
However, there are no complaints regarding the characterization. The characters were well developed; and the language reflected the setting of the story, which was in France.
Not the best to come out from the pen of Dame Marsh, her other works are better, and that’s what made her one of “Golden Age's Queens of Crime”.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

The Perfect Murder
H.R.F. Keating
23.7.2012 to 25.7.2012
2/5 stars

The Perfect Murder by H.R.F. Keating is the first book of the series featuring Inspector Ghote of Bombay (now Mumbai C.I.D). I had always wanted to read this series, as I had been recommended about it a lot. But, after reading this book I can fairly say that I am hugely disappointed. And, I really have doubts whether I will ever read this series again.
The characters in this novel were not engrossing. Neither Inspector Ghote nor the other characters in the books. They were unreal, and somehow weren’t strong enough to hold my attention.
The plot was flimsy. For the first 120 odd pages the plot went nowhere, there were no concrete clues, or no direction in unraveling the mystery, in fact for the first half of the book I really wondered, that what was the mystery all about.
And, lastly the language. It was BAD. Maybe Keating had thought that Indians speak English in the ridiculous fashion as portrayed in the book, but today in India English is spoken as clearly and eligibly as in any English speaking country.
After I completed the book, which involved a lot of page skipping, I didn't have any concrete emotions or feelings about his book. I had problems writing this review as nothing was startlingly bad or good to remember and write about. For me this was a mediocre read. 

Monday 23 July 2012

A Morbid Taste for Bones
Ellis Peters
19.7.2012 to 23.7.2012
4/5 stars

I started reading this book after I was recommended by Goodreads. This was my first Ellis Peters mystery featuring Brother Cadfael. And, I can happily say that this won't be my last. This book can classify as a Cozy-mystery. The crime is very simple. The amount of blood and gore is almost non-existent, and the solution to the crime is pretty simple too. One doesn't have to re-read pages to get hold of the modus operandi of the killer or to understand the plot.
The protagonist, Brother Cadfael, is surely, according to me one of the best amateur detectives I have come across.  In this character we find a religious person who is not dogmatic. He believes in the Supreme Being, but also doesn't approve religious fanaticism. He is clearly skeptical about some of his fellow monks, their outward show of religious devotion and petty politics to gain power and position. He also shows his worldly attitude (before becoming a monk, he had fought in the crusades) when he approves, the romantic liaison of one of his fellow Brother. But, he believes in miracles and in powers of the Lord and doesn't question the miraculous happenings, when reported to him.
As I had earlier said, this book is a cozy mystery, set in the medieval period. The plot is devoid of any brutal scenes or gore. The motive of the killer is also very simple and deadly. The politics of the church described was very interesting to read. And, the best part according to me was the language. All through the book, I never felt that I was reading a novel set in the modern times. The language was so apt for that period, although sometimes it was hard to get through, but it was a big factor in keeping the medieval charm of the book intact.

Tuesday 17 July 2012

D is for Deadbeat
Sue Grafton
13.7.2012 to 16.7.2012
3.75/5 stars

This is the fourth installment of the Kinsey Millhone series by Sue Grafton. Though I enjoyed the book, but I won’t say that I was satisfied with it.
Firstly, the concept, that a P.I. would search heaven and earth, to find a bum who issued her a cheque which bounced, is not palatable for me. I mean, she had done only a few hours of work, and when she found out that he can’t be traced, there is always an option of writing it off as bad debt.
Instead she went on to prod and probe, and in the process finds out that the person she was searching for was found dead. When police was ready to believe it was an accident, Kinsey, believed that it was murder.
The book, picks up pace from here, every aspect of a Sue Grafton novel was present. Starting from the patient legwork, to asking a lot of questions. The sassy dialogues, the believable characters trying to hide facts from the P.I. And, we also get to see a bit of intimacy between Kinsey and her buddy Jonah Robb.
The ending for me was a let-down. Unlike her other novels by Ms.Grafton, the process of revealing the culprit is not done by Kinsey, the culprit reveals itself. Although Kinsey, did move in the right direction, but I like those situations where she puts an odd piece into the puzzle, and finds out the killer herself, which was not the case with this book.
For me, reading a Sue Grafton novel is always like a P.I. job. The element of thrill. And surprise, is there, but what is more importantly present is the level of patience. Her, books are never racy, or wouldn’t make anyone’s blood race. The reader has to patiently wade through the plot, put in legwork i.e. move through mundane fact finding and interview sessions with the P.I. And, then at last, put together all the pieces to find the answer to the puzzle.

Saturday 14 July 2012

Black Tide
Peter Temple
2/5 stars
9.7.2012 – 12.7.2012

This was my first Jack Irish thriller, by Peter Temple. And, I can safely say, that, this will be my last. This book was not interesting. The plot was mediocre, and the characterization was not properly done. And, I also had problem understanding the dialogues in the book.
My first problem with the book was, that, 60 odd pages down the line, I still couldn’t grasp the plot. Although, as per the blurb, I was reading about the protagonist trying to find out a missing person, but I found pages dedicated to matters relating to sale of a Soccer Club Photographs, horse racing(after reading 7 Dick Francis I have had enough of horse racing) and duplicate horses etc. Although these were very boring, but I couldn’t skip them, lest they turn out to be important, and somehow related to the main plot. But, after almost  half the book has gone by, realization dawned on me that these events were not related to the main plot, and that skipping them wouldn’t hurt, and so I started galloping, like a horse, through pages.
The characters were not developed. We hardly get to know anything about the villains. The abundance of characters in the book also makes it difficult to follow the flow of the plot. The dialogues were not good. They, according to my guess, were in the style of local vocabulary. As far as authenticity goes it was great, but as far as the plot goes, reading and getting the point, was very difficult.
And, lastly, the plot was flimsy. With the absence of a well defined villain, the plot never reached the height promised by the blurb. The book turned out to be a financial thriller, but by the end of the book, I had no interest in knowing, in detail, who, why or how laundered what money, how they planned to get off etc etc.

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Prince Of Fire (Gabriel Allon #5)
by Daniel Silva
28.6.2012 to 3.7.2012
3.75/5 stars

It had been a long time since I had read a spy thriller. I started my reading habits in school with Frederick Forsyth, Robert Ludlums and others. Somewhere in the middle I turned wholly towards detective thrillers. So, when I started this book, I had a lot of expectations from Daniel Silva. By the end of the book, he had managed to fulfill almost all off those expectations.
This book is about the protagonist, Gabriel Allon, trying to stop a mysterious terrorist, Khaled, from unleashing a wave of terror in European cities, on Jewish targets. Khaled apparently, has a celebrated terrorist blood running in his veins. Gabriel fails to stop him for carrying out his plot, but eventually manages to kill him in the end.
This book has a fast moving plot, but there is a certain lack of tightness in it. The flow of events for the protagonist was to smooth, for my liking. There was no visible offensive from the antagonist, until 2/3rd of the book had gone by. I like a thriller where the hero has to overcome a few hurdles to get to his target.
Another shortcoming I found in this book was that Khaled, being a master terrorist, was not developed nicely. His appearance in the book was very less, and left me wanting to know more about him, his exploits, and his modus operandi. I felt, that all the baddies deserved a little more exposure in the book.
One thing I liked was the way in which the author connected actual historical events with the protagonists in the book. Like the hero being involved in OPERATION WRATH OF GOD and so on.
The writing style was pulpy, the book had very few dull moments. In all, the book, in-spite of the short comings, was a page turner. Definitely one of the better thrillers I have read in recent times, looking forward to read more from the author.