Friday 17 May 2013

A Share In Death (Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James, #1)A Share In Death by Deborah Crombie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“I realized that if I didn’t wake the next morning, no one would miss me”

There are times when I search for a murder mystery, where the crime will take place in a small village; the suspect pool will be restricted to a certain number of people. The detection would be done by an amateur sleuth, with the local police made to look like bumbling fools. And, the plot shouldn’t be too filmsy, although far from being gory or violent, it must be strong with a nice dose of twist. In short something in the style of Agatha Christie or Margery Allingham.

Deborah Crombie’s first book, “A SHARE IN DEAH” featuring the duo of Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Sergeant Gemma James, had all the above mentioned points, except the amateur detective solving the crime. But since Kincaid was a Scotland Yard man, and the murder fell outside his jurisdiction, he unofficially became the amateur sleuth in the plot. The murder took place in a hotel set in a Yorkshire village; the suspect pool was limited. The local police was led by a foul mouthed no-good inspector and the amount of blood and gore was nil. The plot was a typical whodunit. Highly enjoyable and satisfying. The length and the pace suited the book fine; and the psychological elements if present were mercifully negligible, and if present I failed to notice it.

Duncan Kincaid, is a gentleman detective. No cuss words, no losing temper, and being a bachelor he also had the tendency of being infatuated with the female characters he meets (a sense of déjà vu leading to Inspector Morse, maybe!!). He as an easy going charm and a sense of humor which makes him very difficult to not like. Sergeant Gemma James, a single mother, though being a sidekick and being introduced late into the book, has a personality of her own. She is not just a sidekick lingering in the shadows of the main protagonist, a fact supported by Kincaid, when he talks about and appreciates her ability as a policewoman. And, he is a bachelor, she is a single mother, so definitely something will brew in the next installments between these two.

A highly enjoyable mystery, recommended to any crime fiction reader who likes British style whodunits.

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Thursday 16 May 2013

Back Spin (Myron Bolitar, #4)Back Spin by Harlan Coben
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Myron Bolitar is approached by an old man to help his daughter and son-in-law, both of them ace golfers, to locate their missing son. And, in return Myron’s Company is promised a deal with the husband-wife duo. Myron goes on his own to locate the missing child as his friend Win won’t help him on the case, and manages to recover the child and in the process opens up a can full of lies, both from the past and present.

With each passing book, I am gradually starting to regard Bolitar as one of my most favorite amateur sleuth. Why?
1. In today’s world of police procedurals and private investigators, Myron still holds on the old school charm of being an amateur sleuth.
2. He is normal. He has his sorrows but that doesn’t make him a cynic. Myron solves crime because he has to. He falls in love, he has his heartbreaks and infatuations, and all of these makes him a normal guy and not a booze addict clichéd cop, who doesn’t shave and has a streak of brilliance in him.

Coming back to the book, the plot was tight. For the first time 3/4th part, the plot moves in a steady pace. Though there are few adrenaline rush moments, but it never gets boring. The pace picks up in the last ¼th of the book, where the twists and turns starts coming up hard and fast.

A highly enjoyable and fast read, this book is recommended to anyone who wants to read thrillers featuring amateur sleuths, which is not over the top.

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Sunday 12 May 2013

Slash And Burn (Dr. Siri Paiboun, #8)Slash And Burn by Colin Cotterill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“A good communist is like a tree. He stands firm but knows how to bend in a strong wind. He is fertile but gladly gives up his nuts to less fortunate creatures”

Slash and Burn, the eighth installment of the Dr.Siri mysteries, starts off when an American delegation led by Major Potter visits Laos, starting a joint operation to search for an American helicopter pilot who was lost during the war. Although presumed dead, a photograph delivered to the pilot’s dad, an American senator showed that he was still alive. Dr.Siri is asked to join the expedition. Then as a member of the team dies under unnatural circumstances, Dr.Siri smells foul and starts to investigate his death.

This was my first Colin Cotterill book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Very few writers have the talent of combing crime writing with humor i.e. write a crime novel which would not only be a page turner but would also make the reader laugh. The only name that comes to mind is that of the late John Mortimer, who along with his legendary creation Horace Rumpole created the same potent mixture of crime and humor, just as Cotterill did with his Dr.Siri mysteries.

Dr.Siri is one of a kind. He is an old pathologist who is fighting for his retirement. He is also an amateur sleuth in a Communist country, who doesn’t gives a damn about what the politburo might think about his comments towards Communism. Matching his wit for their own, is his wife Madam Geung, the noodle shop owner, and his friend Civlai, an ex-politburo member and Auntie Bpoo a transgender and a cross dresser, who also is an amateur poet. The plot without being anything extraordinary was twisted, and it also incorporated the events of the helicopter crash in a foolproof manner. The amount of blood and gore was low, rather nil, and the pace was sedate.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would recommend it to every crime fiction reader. Because I realized after finishing, that if you haven’t encountered Dr.Siri, your Crime Fiction experience isn’t complete.

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Saturday 11 May 2013

Neither Here Nor There: Travels in EuropeNeither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe by Bill Bryson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Don’t f*** with me. I’m a guy who knows his maps”

When Bill Bryson travels, we the readers start laughing. Whether its Australia, USA or for that matter any country in the world his antics as a traveler makes us laugh. It was no different this time. ‘Neither Here Nor There’, takes us with the author on a tour of Europe. Bryson acts as the perfect guide, as he shows us the Europe which is far different from the stereotype view reserved for the continent.

Bryson gets robbed on this tour, he is asked to tell his weight, height and complexion while trying to claim his money back. He is charged for a glass of orange juice which was pink in color and which he never drank. He was also charged for a shower cap, which he obviously never used. He rode on an elevator that took two days to reach the fifth floor, while motorists in Paris purposely tried to kill him. And, amidst these all heartfelt tragedies Mr. Bryson still managed to come out live, write the book and made me hysterical with laughter, and informed me that all was not well with Europe.

One small glitch remained though. The humor quotient of the book, according to me, was unevenly distributed. In the first half of the book there is hardly a page, where I didn’t experience belly ache caused due to laughing while reading. Such moments became far spaced and less frequent in the second half of the book. But as the book was small, and the author was Bill Bryson, the whole experience of reading never became boring. Bill Bryson knows what he is doing. He knows how to travel, he knows how to write, but most importantly, he knows how to entertain his readers and make them laugh.

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Friday 10 May 2013

Jar CityJar City by Arnaldur Indriðason
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I guess only the Scandinavian writers can come up with a crime and a subplot as bizarre as this. And the most wonderful part of the whole setup is that they make it look and sound so normal. Which is not at all normal, as these countries in which the books are set, in this case Iceland, has the lowest crime rates in the planet. Maybe this is their way of fantasising things and incidents which might never happen in reality, in their country.

But, real or no real, JAR CITY shot right up to the top as one of my favourite books. Inspector Erlendur of Reykjavík is called up to investigate the death of an old man, and pinned on his dead body is a note. Further investigation brings out the fact that this guy was no angel, and that he was involved in a rape incident almost 30 years ago. The plot was not that twisted, or extraordinary, but what stood out was the brutality of the crime. The incident that led to the main murder, and the fallout of that incident was cold and unpleasant. But that’s the reason I read these books. If they repelled me I would have read a cozy mystery instead!!

The best part of the book has to be the setting and the atmosphere surrounding the case. Now, I stay in India, and Iceland only appeared as a name in my geography books when I was in school. To have a book which has a murder investigation set there, was more that I could have asked for. The weather, the ambiance perfectly synced up with the plot. The whole offering was cold and gloomy. The main character of Inspector Erlendur is a bit of a stereotype fictional policeman. Divorced, with both his son and daughter being addicts, he finds solace in his job.

Recommended to anyone who loves cold and disturbing murder mysteries. Others stay away from this, or for that matter any Nordic Crime fiction.

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Thursday 9 May 2013

Death and the Joyful Woman (Felse, #2)Death and the Joyful Woman by Ellis Peters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was the second instalment of the George Felse series written by Ellis Peters. Peters is known and appreciated all over the world for her medieval mysteries featuring Brother Cadfael. So, when I realised that she had also written another series featuring Inspector George Felse, I immediately picked up the book and started reading it.

The plot can be summed up in a single line. A wealthy man, not liked by much of the village, gets murdered and everybody who were somehow related to him, personally or professionally, becomes a suspect. And this single line plot was my favourite, as I am a huge fan of Golden Age Mysteries, where murders are committed and the suspect is found in from a closed pool of suspects.

Inspector George Felse is a typical English gentleman detective. I admired this man. Though overshadowed by Cadfael in terms of popularity, Felse comes around as a normal human being for whom crime solving is just a part of the job. In a way George Felse and his family reminded me of another British detective, Ruth Rendell’s Inspector Wexford.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves reading simple whodunits, without much blood and gore.

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