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.