Friday 4 October 2013

The Merry Misogynist (Dr. Siri Paiboun, #6)The Merry Misogynist by Colin Cotterill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: Don’t get fooled by the title, this book is neither about the Canadian author David Gilmour nor Sir Naipaul.

First line: By the time the calendar pages had flipped around to 1978, Vientiane, the capital of the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos, had become a dour place to live.

The great Dr. Siri, Laos’ only coroner is facing charges from the Housing Department of his country of subletting his house to a motley group of shady characters. He is faced with the charge of profiting from a house which had been allotted to him for his shelter by the party for free. As he decides to fight these charges, from Madam Daeng’s house cum noodle shop, where Siri is currently staying, by enlisting the loathsome Judge Haeng help in fighting off Comrade Koomki of the housing department, his professional expertise is called into service as a dead body of a woman is delivered to his morgue. With apparent signs of assault, Dr. Siri comes face to face with the fact, that a serial killer is killing off women in the country and it is up to him and his friends(Phosy, Civilai, Geung, Dtui and Daeng) to stop this killer and bring him to justice. Added to this gruesome crime, Siri gets on a personal job to find a mentally unstable Indian, crazy Rajid, who writes ridddles and whose father Mr. Tickoo works in an Indian restaurant.

I normally tend to stay away from the American serial killer crime novels. They are boring. The plots don’t engage me in anyway, and here is where this book scores. Full points to Cotterill, who wrote a serial killer novel and made it every bit interesting, and managed to keep me hooked till the last page had gone by. How did he do this? He kept a sub plot of finding Crazy Rajid, which kept the reader moving back and forth thereby driving off monotony. And, somehow his writing style made the parts which do not deal with the main plot interesting to read. Like Dr. Siri seeing spirits or the conversation between Civilai and Siri, or the scenes where Civilai tries to make people eat the buns baked by him.

Though going by Slash and Burn, I thought that even this book will have a high humor quotient, but it wasnt there. But whatever there was, was enough to add the spice of laughter to an otherwise brutal, chilling and gruesome crime novel.

P.S. Look out for the Communist mottos by Judge Haeng, they are present and they are as effective as ever.

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Wednesday 2 October 2013

1222 (Hanne Wilhelmsen, #8)1222 by Anne Holt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

1222 is the eighth book in the series of Crime Novels written by the Norwegian writer, Anne Holt, featuring retired policewoman Hanne Wilhelmsen. The book is set in the town of Finse in Norway, which lies 1222 meters above sea level, thus making it the highest Railway System located in Norway.

A train carrying passengers to Bergen comes under a hurricane and heavy snowfall, and crashes killing the driver immediately. The passengers on board, including the crippled Hanne, is evacuated to a nearby Hotel, where they are provided with food and shelter as the weather conditions goes from bad to worse. Keeping in tune with the nature the internal atmosphere of the hotel gets chilly, as within a few hours of evacuation one of the passengers is found dead with a bullet hole. Hanne being ex-police becomes the natural choice for leading the investigation.

The plot is in style of a classic whodunnit. We have our murder victims, we have more than enough suspects and we also get a closed door atmosphere. Although the total number of passengers from the train numbered up to more than 190, but the writer while creating a suspect pool kept the number within 10, with the other 180 passengers merely being side characters. The blood and gore normally associated with Nordic Crime fiction was absent. But the ending disappointed me, somehow it felt as if the writer suddenly realised that she needs to end the book hence she needs to get someone within the suspect pool to act as a murderer. This abruptness mellowed down a plot which was going strongly and had the capacity of ending with a high note.

Another point where the book fell flat was the translation. Maybe it was because of this translation the book felt disjointed at times, and I found myself skipping paragraphs. So, if one manages to ignore these points, here is a book which is set in a foreign country, surrounded by an atmosphere as chilly as a psychopathic criminal, a plot which is somewhat loose but fast, and equally enjoyable.

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