Sunday 29 December 2013

Alex (Verhœven, #2)Alex by Pierre Lemaitre
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A well deserved CWA International Dagger winner!!

During November this year Crime Writers Association came up with a poll, which among other categories voted Agatha Christie as the best ever crime writer. Maxim Jakubowski, a CWA member and a celebrated crime novelist was not happy with the verdict or the choices put up in the poll. According to him, and I also believe, that although Dame Christie remains as the doyenne of crime writing, but the genre in itself has developed way beyond what she created, and that today its encompasses much more than just being populist literature. But, it’s also true that any crime writer does need to pay his respect to the shrine of Christie, atleast once in his/her career. Alex by Pierre Lemaitre shows us in the clearest way possible how crime fiction has travelled this long way to stand where it is today.

Dont read this book. If your life is almost perfect. If you have a cozy atmosphere surrounding you, if you are yet to face crumbling situations, and insane brutality which makes you realise that there is always “Evil Under The Sun”. Because this book will make you sad, angry, will make you feel helpless, will make you wonder what kind of a person is capable of such brutality. But, then again, read it. Read it because if you like crime fiction, you will be guilty of murder if you skip this book. Because as soon as you finish it you will rush out of your house catch anyone you see first, and will start babbling that you have just finished an awfully gruesome, conceited, twisted crime thriller which you need to talk about.

As the name of the book suggests this book is about Alex Prevost. Every chapter, every page is dedicated to this character. For all those who thought Amy from Gone Girl was intriguing, they will have a tough choice in front of them once they have finished this book.

Commandant Camille Verhoeven, the protagonist, a bitter man who has just lost his pregnant wife to a kidnapper, reminded me of Endeavor Morse. Easily irritated, living alone he even has a assistant whose name is Louis. Even the relation between him and his superior Le Guen, reminded me of Morse and Strange. And somewhat for this reason the character of Verhoeven never made a definite impression on my mind. Maybe because it was the close proximity to Morse’s character, but what the real reason was, the presence of Alex. In a book whenever there remains a character as enigmatic as Alex Prevost, it becomes too difficult for the other characters to make an impression over and above her.

The plot is something which I have never read before. While the conventional points of twists and pace was ever present, but what would make this book as different as possible from most crime fiction, is the.....the problem here is, the reader should go into the book without any inkling of what’s there in the plot, what to expect. That way the enjoyment (if the emotion that emerges at the end of the book can be called that) will be at its zenith.

So, Monsieur Lemaitre, the end of my edition says that you will be coming out with next book in 2014. 2014 is here, and I cant wait to get my hands on it.
P.S. For all those who thought Jo Nesbo could be gory and brutal (including me), please take the plunge.

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Wednesday 25 December 2013

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax  (Mrs. Pollifax #1)The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Whenever one comes across a spy thriller, one comes to expect a book stuffed with action, men fighting over secret messages, high ranking officials giving orders, and higher ranking officials being revealed as spies. And, if it is a modern day spy thriller, add to all the above a bevy of gadgets and an over-the-top protagonist. And, for these reasons I had moved away from spy thrillers in recent times. Somehow the prospect of reading about gadgets and dashing heroes don’t appeal to me.

And, for this reason I enjoyed reading THE UNEXPECTED MRS. POLIFAX, by Dorothy Gilman. The book was set in the times of the cold war, the protagonist Mrs. Emily Polifax was no muscle bound Adonis, but rather an old lady, bored with life, who walks up to the CIA headquarters to apply for the job of a Spy. The action takes place, at first, in Mexico, then in the Eastern European nation of Albania. This point got a huge thumbs up from me, as for me no Cold War spy thriller is complete without an Eastern European setting.

The plot and setting reminded me of Alistair MacLean books. This was more of an adventure with the good and the bad being segregated and clearly defined right from the beginning. The scope for suspense was low. But nevertheless Gilman managed to create a book, which was a page turner. And has not lost its charm even 50 years after it got published.

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Wednesday 18 December 2013

Ashes to DustAshes to Dust by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Of all the Nordic crime writers I had experienced, I had an opinion that Jo Nesbo is the mad-dest of them all. And, why shouldn't he be?? With the kind of brutal torture scenes in his books, and the ability to make a very peace-loving reader like me relish those scenes, he certainly deserves his status as the “mad-writer” whose taste for brutality can be called an act of a Genius.
Yrsa Sigurðardóttir might not have reached that level of madness with her scenes of violence in her book ASHES TO DUST, but when it comes to the theme of the book, she beats Nesbo hands down, and presents us with a book the ending of which left me in a dark mood. Unlike most crime fiction where the ending means the culprit being detained, and with a few losses of bodies here and there, the ending leaves the reader satisfied and happy, well almost. But, such was not the case here. Yes, the culprit did get apprehended, but the ending was dark, and by the time the motive of the culprit comes out in the open, I was left with a sense of an utter sadness. So, if you want to read this, beware, no doubt you will read a great work of crime fiction, but you will also read a book which is dark, very dark.
Þóra Guðmundsdóttir, was the protagonist. A single mother and a lawyer, who gets entangled in this mystery didn't make a deep impression in my mind. Maybe because the plot was so overwhelming that it eventually overshadowed the protagonist. Unlike other Nordic crime fiction, the speed of the book was slow.
Summing up, this book is definitely not for all and sundry. A voracious crime reader should go for it, I can vouch that he/she wont be disappointed.

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