Sunday 23 February 2014

Promised Land (Spenser, #4)Promised Land by Robert B. Parker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I started reading Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole novels a few months back, and from the very onset I was hounded by reviews which complained Cole being a copy (albeit a poor one) of Robert Parker’s Spenser. The reviewers complained(or remarked) that the tongue-in-cheek dialogues coming out of Cole’s mouth were too much of a copy of those coming out of Spenser’s mouth, and they didn’t sound original. I was intrigued and by the second Elvis Cole novel I was tired of Cole, and his, what I considered a desperate attempt to sound smart-ass, “cool” attitude. And from that moment I wanted to read Parker and Spenser, if not for anyhting else, just to find out what kind of a character this Spenser is, whom Cole is supposedly imitating. Thus came PROMISED LAND and with the book came a realisation as to why Spenser is Spenser, and Cole, in atleast his first two novels was just a copy of him.

This is not my first Robert B. Parker novel. I had read MELANCHOLY BABY featuring Sunny Randall, and found it to be a book which was pleasant to read, but was not worth remembering for a long time. PROMISED LAND and I will remember this book for a long time. Not for the plot or the characters as a whole, but for a protagonist named Spenser and his partner named Susan Silverman. They are a couple. I cant describe the way they speak, or the way Spenser was made to speak. But, Robert Parker successfully created a protagonist, who is fun to read about, who is serious when it comes to matters relating to heart and client, who reads a lot, and who delivers his dialogues in a way to make me wish that I wish I could deliver lines like Spenser. Not for a single moment he or his character seems boring, over the top, or a smart-ass who is trying to hard to sound cool. The lines come out of his mouth, as if those lines are the most normal lines in the world and they are Spenser’s birthright. Hats off to the late great Parker.

But, I was disappointed with the plot. Actually I anticipated one with more element of mystery in it. A whodunit where Spenser uses his skill finds out a criminal who had committed a crime. This book was much of an adventure where the good and the bad guys were pointed out early and they stayed true to their colour. The ending was also the one which was anticipated, but what made this book a fun read was obviously Spenser, and the speed which made this “know all” adventure fast and not boring.

And, Hawk who starts out as a bad guy, but ultimately turns out to be a ‘sort’ of sidekick to Spenser. With Mouse and Joe Pike(another Cole connection) Hawk adds up to my list of another ‘sidekick’ who left on their own has enough ammo to overshadow the main guy.

P.S. Crais and Cole brought out their originality from the third book, and despite leaving their second book unfinished I raced through the third instalment and finished it with a contended sigh. Finally, Cole found out that he doesn’t need to be a shadow of Spenser, because left on his own he is himself that good.

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Thursday 20 February 2014

Brushing Up The Years: A Cartoonist's History Of India, 1947 2004Brushing Up The Years: A Cartoonist's History Of India, 1947 2004 by R.K. Laxman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have always felt that the so called "INTELLECTUAL BRIGADE" of India chooses to see only those which doesnt hurt their eyes. In the process a certain political group, or a certain section, or a stray incident gets the big Headline bashing whereas points requiring close scrutiny goes scot free.
Recently, I bought a book called "Brushing Up the Years: A Cartoonist's History of India" which is a collection of the cartoons drawn by the legendary cartoonist R.K. Laxman. In this book he actually "PORTRAYS" what a Common man goes through in his bid for just living his life. His brush left no party, be it left or the centre, unscathed, no incident, which hurt the common man, go unnoticed. A true common man, he felt the need to portray every common man’s trouble without seeing the color or the creed, or the amount of vote the issue might fetch. No wonder his HERO(if we may call the dhoti clad old gentleman appearing in his slides as one) was called a Common Man.
I wish the media, or the intellectuals of this country stop being selective in their criticism, and for once actually come down to the pedestal of a common man to see how fast a 100 rupee earned gets spent leaving a man empty handed with a head full of worries.
My point : If you want to criticise, speak out against everything you see thats bad like Mr. Laxman did. If you want to be selective, better keep your mouth shut.

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Wednesday 19 February 2014

The Cat Who Could Read Backwards (Cat Who..., #1)The Cat Who Could Read Backwards by Lilian Jackson Braun
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lilian jackson Braun, the American crime novelist whose mysteries featured the protagonist Jim Qwilleran(W coming after Q, and not U) along with the Siamese duo of Koko and Yum Yum published her first book in the year 1966, which was THE CAT WHO COULD READ BACKWARDS. She followed it with two more books in the series, but then suddenly disappeared from the writing scene, only to be resurrected by her publisher 20 years later to restart her much loved series to much fanfare. Had she been left in the cold with just three books to her writing credit, we, who love reading crime fiction would surely have been deprived of a great crime novelist whose books were fast, funny and had not only the presence of a great protagonist and his moustache, but also had two Siamese cats as problem solvers.

THE CAT WHO COULD READ BACKWARDS begins with Jim Qwilleran, a reporter, getting a job as an art beat for the newspaper Daily Fluxion. He starts his job by interviewing an artist who only paints babies, and in the process gets entangled in the art world filled artist with their egos and jealousies for fellow artists. He also gets to meet the reclusive and much hated art critic for the Fluxion, who had the nasty habit of getting on people’s bad book by writing vicious reviews about their work. No sooner had he settled into his job than a gallery owner gets murdered, and in the process Jim finds himself searching for the culprit.

The plot was the weakest point of the book, if the characters could be called the strongest. The plot was fast, and in no way could be described as boring. But, the ending didn’t justify the level of writing throughout the book. The unmasking of the culprit and the subsequent revelation of the motive did leave a slight bad taste in my mouth. But, having said that I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and plan to enjoy the other three books I have of the author in my collection.

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Monday 17 February 2014

Wycliffe and the Quiet VirginWycliffe and the Quiet Virgin by W.J. Burley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have never had the (mis)fortune of reading a case history typed by a police typist or a court typist to be stored in the cold room purely for the purpose of record keeping. But reading the novel Wycliffe and the Quiet Virgin, I had the distinct feeling as to how I might feel while reading such a report. Just like an official report which would definitely be boring filled with mundane language and scenes not painted to create thrill or excitement in the reader, this instalment of Wycliffe mysteries written by W.J. Burley is just the same. This is a book which fails to create any kind of excitement or sense of thrill in the reader. What it definitely creates, are situations where the reader feels almost compelled to set aside the book and mark it as ‘unfinished’.

But what stopped me from putting down the book was the fact; despite its flaws of being slow with mundane dialogues and very ordinary characters is the plot. The plot, just like some real life crime, is a wonderful whodunit. Wycliffe while vacationing with a lawyer friend of his watches a local play where a young girl playing the lead catches his eye. The girl, Francine, having the local reputation of being a difficult child disappears the next day as her mother is found murdered with her father missing. Wycliffe being the senior police in the locality takes up the case only to find that the current crime is related to something that happened five years back.

Yes, the culprit, the victim, the side characters including Wycliffe all come out as un-exotic characters who fails to incite any kind of love, sympathy or hatred towards them. Yet when put in the plot they fit in their roles perfectly, just like a real life criminal and a victim would fit. We would ohh and aah on them while reading them as news in the newspaper, but would forget them, their crimes and everything related to them the moment a new crime comes along. Just as I would definitely forget Wycliffe, the crime, the criminal as soon as I pick up the next book.

I always stress that the plot is more important than characters. But, if it happens that the dialogues, the scenes, the characters; other than the plot every other aspect for a crime novel turns out to be taken out of a police report then that book becomes something that I would definitely not recommend to any reader. If you are a dedicated crime reader then go for it, or else there are better works of crime fiction lying around.

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Monday 3 February 2014

Lullaby Town (Elvis Cole, #3)Lullaby Town by Robert Crais
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finally the Robert Crais I can say I enjoyed reading. This is my third Crais book featuring Elvis Cole, but by far this is the best and the most interesting. The first one was okay, and I thought that by the second book, I would get to know and like Cole and Crais better, but the second book fell flat and I ended up not being able to finish the book. I was bored, disgusted by the ever smooth talking Cole, and confused by the plot. Cole’s wise-ass attitude got on my nerves and I was desperately searching for the reason as to why these books are considered as masterpieces of crime writing. I was entering another PD James phenomena.

But, this third instalment of Cole and Pike got my attention, and made me realise that maybe there is substance in this series after all, and that one book blunder doesn’t make this series bland. LULLABY TOWN by Robert Crais stars when Elvis Cole is hired by hotshot action movie director Peter Alan Nelsen to find his child and ex-wife, the ones who he had dumped on his way to stardom. Cole finds them easily and then discovers that the lady has a secret of her own. She enlists Cole and Pike’s help to get her out of the situation and at that moment in comes Nelsen with his ego in his wake to jumble things up.

Starting out the plot had really no aspect of being a whodunit. By one-third of the book the reader gets to know the plot, and the players, and comes to realise the outcome. All the points revealed, along with the solution the book had the risk of falling flat. But that’s where Crais brings out his magic wand and creates a piece of crime writing which would keep the readers hooked just for the sake of knowing how the solution was reached. The pace of the book, his writing style, the dialogues, the scenes he created all made up for the lack of suspense and made this a highly enjoyable and satisfying read.

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