Friday 22 February 2013

The Old Contemptibles

Martha Grimes

2 stars

Almost all the books I have marked as “UNFINISHED” were left after I had finished at least 50%, and I was done with the debate regarding whether or not to continue with it. The same problem happened with this book. Only with this one, I decided to finish it, and I can’t say that it was a GOOD decision to continue. Rather it was an OKAY-ish sort of decision.

Richard Jury after a short term romance with a lady decides to marry her only to find dead and him, being suspended from the force and being suspected of her death. With no official capacity to search for her killer, Jury sends his friend Melrose Plant under the guise of a librarian to the old country home of the lady to investigate and try to find out the culprit.

The overall plot was decent and effective as a cozy mystery. No bloodshed and no gore!!! But then again why do we read a Cozy??? I read them for the clues, the twists and turns and the solution. Neither do I read them for blood and gore nor for long insightful conversations, which have no bearing on the main plot and which bores me to death. Sadly, this was the case with this book. The death came too late (she was poisoned, NO BLOOD!!!! so SAD) and after that, there were hardly any clues, so naturally I stopped expecting any sort of twist. Actually a twist comes only if the plot has a red-herring, and red-herrings appear only if there are clues lying around to lure them!!!

But, there were no clues, no red-herrings and sadly no twists. Instead there were CONVERSATIONS, actually LOTS OF THEM, which frankly seemed meaningless and boring. They muddled the plot, confused me and by the end of the book when another murder victim was mentioned, I realised that I had forgotten about this character spoken about. And, I could also guess the culprit the moment the character was introduced, the way that person was behaving and speaking gave away the fact that here is the culprit. So, again no excitement for me there!!!

Richard Jury is no Endeavour Morse. But, he has his own persona and charm, which makes him much more believable and likable than some other over the top fictional poet detectives roaming around. I had liked “Man with a Load of Mischief” but sadly didn’t enjoy this one. But, I won’t give up on Grimes yet just because of this one book. I have another Richard Jury mystery on my shelf which I plan to read and enjoy.

Murder At The Vicarage

Agatha Christie

5 stars

The Queen Of Crime never fails me.
While reading a crime novel, I always yearn for some points,
1. Numerous characters.
2. Abundance of suspects.
3. Plenty of clues.
4. An ending with a delicious twist.
And there are points which I absolutely loathe, one of them being page long descriptions of objects and events which are not remotely related to the crime.

So, when it comes to Agatha Christie I am always presented with a novel which has plenty of characters, numerous suspects and a memorable twist to end the book. And, I guess this is what makes her the queen of crime, always presenting the reader with a tight plot leaving him satisfied yet yearning for more.

Murder At the Vicarage, the first Miss Marple novel starts of in the village of St. Mary’s Mead where an old Colonel Protheroe , is found shot to death in the study of the village Vicar, Len Clements. Sometime after the murder a couple of suspects claim responsibility but are soon released as medical evidence points out that they couldn’t have committed the crime. And, thus begins the hunt for the murderer by Inspector Slack and Colonel Melchett as they are assisted in the task by Miss Jane Marple.

The whole book is narrated by the Vicar. Miss Marple though a central character, appears sporadically in the book. It is almost a cameo appearance, but she delivers, at last, when she solves the crime and brings the culprits to justice.

I had read this book a long time ago, and was aware of the identity of the murderer. I had also seen the TV movie adaptation featuring Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple, but re-reading it proved to be equally satisfying. Anyone reading it for the first time will surely have a tough time guessing the identity of the killer before the last pages had gone by.

Creation In Death

J.D. Robb

2.5 stars

Even before I had read a single page from the book, I was prejudiced. I couldn’t help it, as the book had so many stereotypes, which I had not only come to loathe but absolutely hate. Those were,
1. Serial killer who has a media provided nickname.
2. Female lead with husband as sidekick.
3. Lots and lots.....and lots of police personnel along with their names.
4. Romance novelist writing crime fiction.

So, I am frightened of serial killers with nicknames, not because that they might get me. But, because of the fact that by the end it always comes down to fact that,
1. They belonged to the upper echelons of the society.
2. They went wacko because of some naughty things done by a family relative, most of the times its either wife or stepmother/mother.
3. They chose their victims without any motive.
4. They were given absurd nicknames by the media.
Of all these the most irritating is the fact that they have no motive whatsoever for killing the victims. A crime story without a motive is, yes you got it right, BORING!!!

I am not a sexist, and I enjoy feisty female lead characters, but not someone whose husband tags along everywhere she goes, looks over her like a mother always nudging her to eat and rest, and PEPPING her up when she is down. Yes, they PEPPED once in the book while the investigation was going on!!! Sorry, Eve Dallas, it’s nothing personal, but you are no Kinsey or Tuppence, and you have got clichéd and stereotype written all over you, right from your dialogues down to your attitude. But, you are definitely better and more entertaining than a certain Adam Dalgleish and his poems!!!!!

Now, look at Jack Reacher or at Inspector Morse. Do they need an army to solve a crime??? No. While the former relies on his fist, legs and brain to do the job, the later has Lewis to do the legwork and his brain to the thinking for him. And, that’s the reason you see that they and their readers never gets confused. What happened with this book was, by the half of it, I was having difficulty in keeping tabs on the names of the people for the law and against the law. SO CONFUSING and BORING!!!!

And, lastly, I have had my brush with Tami Hoag and her “CRIME NOVELS”. So, I am well aware of what can happen when a romance novelist starts writing crime fiction. Nuff said!!

But having said all these, I should mention that the book was fast. Yes, the pace was good enough to not let those prejudices to hamper my reading. Well, anything is better than a PD James novel!!! The only thing which stopped me from giving this book a 3 star rating instead of a 2.5 is the ending. The ending is a way disappointed me. Had it been a bit tighter it would have pleased me, and I would have happily gifted it a 3 star rating.

A Taste for Death

P.D. James

1 star

P.D. James is considered as a worthy successor to Agatha Christie and is widely regarded as one of the most celebrated crime novelists of our generation. But, in spite of all that I have never enjoyed reading her books. I mostly found them boring and bland.

Now, the book. The edition I was reading was a TV tie-up, with faces of two actors who played character parts in the dramatization of the novel and it was 552 pages long.

Paul Berowne who is an MP and a former cabinet minister is found dead in a church, with his throat slit with his own razor, along with fellow victim, Harry Mack, a homeless tramp. This incident brings Commander Adam Dalgleish, poet and detective into the scenario to find out who was responsible for the dirty deed. He, with his team sets about his task and in the process involves Berowne’s mother, his wife and her lover, daughter, his mistress and others. The plot and the motive was very simple. It all came down to money and jealousy. So, my problem with this book was that 552 pages were too much for this book.  According to me the whole matter could and should have been condensed to a maximum of 350 pages.

I like my mystery novels with a liberal dose of clues and twists. I do like the psychological part, but an abundance of it turns the whole novel boring. In this case, there was serious lack of clues and twists, with an abundance of psychology. Every character was thinking, even the police was thinking, and amidst all these thought process, I could hardly find any useful bit related to the murder or the investigation. And there were conversations, long long boring conversations. The whole thing seemed that everyone was chatting, instead of providing clues or pointing out suspects they were all busy chatting!!!

The ending when it came, almost seemed a blessing!!! Literally it dropped out of the sky. All those pages, full of room descriptions and insightful chats and detailed characterisations etc etc were just there to fill up the pages. I felt cheated. 552 pages and I get this???? And, there was my nemesis to deal with, super long paragraphs!!!!

A Body In The Library

Agatha Christie

5 stars

The last time I had read this book was in the year 2006. I had bought an omnibus edition containing four Miss Marple Mysteries at the Kolkata Book fair and had thoroughly enjoyed reading each one of them.

So, while re-reading, I was well aware of the identity of the culprits, but I had forgotten the modus operandi of catching them. As a result, the experience of re-reading the book was equally exciting as it was while reading it for the first time.

There is always an added pleasure of re-reading an old book. Not only do I get to experience the book once more, it also brings back the memories associated with the time and date, when I had first read it. Although the memories might not be all rosy, but, still the sheer experience of remembering them once more is something I look forward to.

Thursday 7 February 2013

The Dead Of Jericho

by Colin Dexter

5 stars

“He sighed and knew that life was full of ‘if only’ for everyone”

“Morse nodded too, as if he was also not unacquainted with the agonies of unrequited love”

Sometime back I was reading an interview of Colin Dexter, where he remarked that although he realises that authors like Ruth Rendell and P.D. James dwell more on the psychological side of a murder mystery, he, Dexter, personally likes more the twists and turns present in a whodunit. And, this is one of those very important reason for which I enjoy a Colin Dexter novel more than a PD James novel (actually I DONT enjoy reading PD James).

The Dead Of Jericho, is the fifth instalment of Inspector Morse mysteries, where a dead woman(apparent suicide) and a murdered man makes Morse wonder whether they were connected and whether there was any foul play involved in the case of the woman. Although not officially heading the case, Morse starts making his own enquiries. Later when the case is getting nowhere, Chief Strange decides to officially ask Morse to head the case. And, thus joined by Lewis, Morse cracks the case, providing us with a very enjoyable mystery.

All the traits found in a Colin Dexter novel were present. Red Herrings, twists in the tale, subtle humour and Morse getting infatuated with a female victim.

But once again the best aspect of the book was the writing style. In a single chapter, Dexter describes seemingly unconnected events, which on their own bears no connection to the original plot, at least so it seems, at the time of reading them. But at the end of the case all of those unconnected events connect up one by one to form a definite and clear picture.

Summing up, I loved and enjoyed reading the book. But, somehow I feel sad too, that one by one, as I FINISH OFF THE Morse novels, I am nearing the point where there won’t be any more to read, and that would be my personal Remorseful Day, as I would bid adieu to my favourite detective. Till then, I will keep looking forward to reading the next Inspector Morse Mystery.

Fade Away

by Harlan Coben

5 stars.

“Dreams never die. Sometimes you think they are dead, but they are just hibernating lie some old bear. And, if the dream has been hibernating for a long time, that bear is going to wake up grumpy and hungry”

“He truly believed that no one could love him, and no matter who you are, that hurts. It made you insecure. It made you want to hide and build fences”

“He has the bone weary look of a survivor, who wasn’t so sure the dead weren’t the lucky ones”

It had been almost an year, after I had read my first Harlan Coben thriller, GONE FOR GOOD, which was fast, twisted and very satisfying. The book was good enough to convert me into a Harlan Coben fan. So after such a long time when I picked up FADE AWAY, I was expecting a fast thriller and was also expecting my status as a Harlan Coben fan to continue. My expectations were fulfilled on both the count.

Myron Bolitar, a sports agent and a former basketball player, whose career was cut short by an injury, is called upon by the chief officer of New Jersey Dragons to investigate the disappearance of one of their stars Greg Downing. Downing was in the past, an opponent of Bolitar. So, Myron goes about his job of finding Downing and we the readers get to read a fast and compact thriller.

The plot wasn’t GREAT, but it wasn’t BAD either. For a thriller featuring an amateur detective, it was more than enough. The book had its fair share of action sequences but they were not overwhelming on the plot, which would have made me skip pages.

The characters were believable, but then again, who read a Harlan Coben book for characters and their development. At least I don’t. This book had some great lines, although clichéd, but great nonetheless. Three of those are listed above.

Summing up, a highly satisfactory and fast read. The only reason I am giving this book 4 stars instead of 5 is because, by the end of the book, there were some unanswered questions lying around. Had there been cleaned up, the book would have got 5 stars!!