Saturday 20 April 2013

Up CountryUp Country by Nelson DeMille
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“The dead, if they could speak, would tell you why they died, but the living have no answers”

“I make jokes when I’m stressed, and when I sense danger..”


After a gap of almost 4 months, I once again read a political thriller. The last one I had read was “Key to Rebecca” by Ken Follett. But, UP COUNTRY was nothing like it. Moreover, just like Key.., this one would also stay as one of my favourite books of all time.

The plot starts where ex-military CID, Paul Brenner is asked to return to Vietnam, as a favour and to investigate a murder which took place during the Vietnam War. Both, the murderer and the victim were American soldiers, and the witness to the crime was a Viet Cong soldier. Brenner is asked to locate this VC, who currently lives in North Vietnam, to help the investigators to bring justice to the guilty.

Standard stereotype Vietnam veteran plot. But, once I started reading, I realised that whatever I was reading was anything but “STANDARD”. Brenner starts his journey, and starts relieving the war, which he had participated in, almost 30 years ago. Seldom had I read such an absorbing and heartfelt description, of not only the war, but also the emotions a soldier had to go through. Unlike other novels I had read which were somehow connected to Vietnam War, this book provided me with an unusual POV of a soldier. Mr.DeMille was himself a Viet-Vet. So, it’s safe to assume that a lot of emotions portrayed in the book were personally experienced by DeMille himself. As Brenner starts recounting the incidents one by one, or come face to face with the horrors of the war, of what it could do and what it did do to the people who tried to kill one another. Everyone came out, those who could, of the war with a mental and physical scar that would never heal. As once Brenner remarks that a North Vietnamese in modern day would die with an American but would never share the table with a South Vietnamese. Such was the hatred that got imbibed.

The book was a bit low on the thrill quotient. But, then again the memories of Brenner, his conflicting emotions about his female escort, Susan Webber, the country Vietnam were more than enough to hold on to my attention.

Summing up, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Took some time to complete it, but given the fact that the book was 867 pages long and that I didn’t skip a single page. Definitely one of the most original and heartfelt book written about the Vietnam War, where the writer was himself a Veteran. The book presented us with a heartfelt account of the war through the hero, another Viet Vet.

P.S. Literary snobs, who shout that crime fiction is all pulpy and fake, should read this book. Mr.DeMille showed everyone that you don’t have to be a Booker shortlist author to write a heart wrenching account of a sad incident of which he was a part of. All you need is a little bit of courage and desire to tell a story.

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Monday 8 April 2013

61 Hours (Jack Reacher, #14)61 Hours by Lee Child
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The 14th installment of the Jack Reacher series written by Lee Child finds Reacher, on a bus with a group of elderly tourists when the bus crashes midway and leaves the passengers stranded in the city of Bolton, which is experiencing heavy snowfall and expecting a big storm. Amidst this foul weather the police department of the city is also trying to protect one of its citizens, an elderly lady who is a material witness in an important case involving drug trafficking. Jack Reacher gets involved and by the turn of the events finds himself helping the police in guarding the witness.

The plot though not reaching the heights of KILLING FLOOR or ONE SHOT, is one of the best to come out of Child’s pen. It had the army, the air force, the local police, unknown contract killers, mysterious buildings in the middle of nowhere and Jack Reacher. And, also the action scenes in this book were much shorter as compared to other novels. And, ever present was the trademark Lee Child speed. So, nothing could go wrong and nothing did go wrong. One unique factor of this book was that somewhere down the line it became a whodunit. As opposed to other Jack Reacher thrillers, where the plot is thrown open and the culprits are often introduced in the latter half of the book, in this one it was purely evident that the culprit was among a pre-determined group of suspects and that there was no chance of this being an outside job.

But, one down point was the name of the book. The title made it look like something was due to happen after 61 hours. But, the climax took place much after the designated 61 hours were over. This book could have been a 5 star book, had there not been the name fiasco. So, 4 stars.
P.S. Another unique point, Reacher didn’t sleep with anyone in this book.

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Tuesday 2 April 2013

Compulsion (Alex Delaware #22)Compulsion by Jonathan Kellerman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Hey stuff happens. Then it un-happens. I’m staying positive”

I had never read a Jonathan Kellerman book before. So, Compulsion was my first. And, though I won’t be searching for another book written by him eagerly, I won’t turn down one either, if I happen to encounter it.

This book featured the protagonist duo of policeman Milo Sturgis and psychiatrist Alex Delaware. The character of Sturgis reminded me of Reginald Hill’s creation Andrew Dalziel. Not only were they both fat, but Sturgis’ style of dialogues were similar too. But the character of Delaware seemed a bit bland to me. I always felt that somehow his characterization was much suited for a side-role as opposed to the leading role. But, maybe reading a few more books would open up his character more and make me think otherwise.

The plot, which is about three interconnected crimes, was neither a high-flyer nor did it make me yawn. It had its ups and downs. The starting was well paced, leading up to the double crimes, then the speed dropped, eventually to pick up again in the finishing chapters. But, don’t expect a twist, as the plot and the clues provided weren’t of the type where a twist could be introduced and made to fit in perfectly.

So, summing up, I enjoyed the book as I would do with any normal thriller, but I never felt ecstatic about it. It never promised me high hopes, so it did not leave me disappointed.

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